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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Moira rates blunder

Moira Shire’s 17,000 plus rate notices will be reissued after a calculation error creating a shortfall of more than $500,000 in revenue was discovered last week.

FIONA BLICK August 26, 2014 3:45pm

The error was believed to have been made with the Capital Improved Value (CIV) numbers, which are used to determine the budgeted 5.5% rate rise; instead of using the 2013/14 figure, the 2012/13 figure was used, meaning rates rose by only 2.5%.

This error was not picked up by Moira Shire finance or accounting staff, it was instead noticed by Koonoomoo rate payer Scott Olsen, a grain marketing manager, who spoke with the Yarrawonga Chronicle directly after he notified Finance Manager Warren Brown of his discovery last Thursday.

“I received my rate notice on Wednesday and like all bills, I went through it to make sure it was correct,” Mr Olsen told the Chronicle.

“I noticed that different figures were used on the rate notice to what had been indicated in the approved 2014/15 budget, so I contacted Moira Shire immediately and left a message for Mr Brown to phone me.”

Mr Olsen said Mr Brown returned his phone call the next morning with Mr Olsen asking for an explanation as to why his rates had only risen by 2.5% and not the budgeted 5.5%.

“At first Mr Brown said everything was correct but then on closer inspection he acknowledged there may indeed be a problem and he would look into it,” Mr Olsen said.

“I think the key point here is that Moira Shire did not pick up on this error internally.

“How much is this mistake going to cost rate payers?

“This is a pinnacle example of why Moira Shire needs a probity audit.”

Mayor Peter Mansfield played down the rates mistake calling it an “administration problem”.

“I was notified Thursday afternoon about this issue,” Cr Mansfield said.

“Staff are looking into it and the bottom line is the rate notices, I believe, will have to be reissued.”

Cr Mansfield said Moira Shire CEO Mark Henderson will be investigating how this mistake occurred.

“Mr Henderson will give councillors a full report when the investigation is complete but until then I can’t comment on possible ramifications,” he said.

In a statement released to the media last Friday, Mr Henderson apologised “unreservedly for the mistake and the confusion caused by this incident”.

“We will undertake a comprehensive review of our processes, but right now our priority is to address the confusion we have caused for our customers,” Mr Henderson said.

“We are currently working through the system and printing requirements with our providers and once the arrangements are confirmed we can advise of the timelines for mailing the more than 17,000 revised notices.

“In recognition of this inconvenience and delay, we are extending the due date for payments due by September 30 to October 30, 2014.”

He said however, Moira Shire Council was unable to delay the direct debit payment scheduled for next week for customers on the ten instalment plan.

“Your revised rate notice will include adjustments to your remaining instalments,” Mr Henderson said.

“All the other charges including the municipal charge, environmental levy, garbage and recycling services and the fire services levy were correct and will not change.”

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