We are asking for feedback and submissions on proposed changes to our Rates Remission Policy, which aims to provide ratepayers with some financial assistance where they might have difficulty meeting their obligations to pay rates.
The proposed changes come off the back of the Long Term Plan 2021-2041 Amendment (LTPA), where we were asked to explore additional options for those that are struggling to pay rates.
Mayor Bernie Wanden says, “With 25% of our population aged 65 and over, our households earning on average 35% less than the rest of Aotearoa per year according to Stats.nz, and some of the highest proportions of mortgages and rent comparative to income in Aotearoa, our community are feeling the pinch more than most. These proposed changes aim to help community members that may otherwise find it challenging to pay their rates bill.”
Council propose introducing the following changes to the Rates Remission Policy:
The option for rates postponement – A rates postponement is a way of delaying the payment of your rates. Rates postponement can help you if you are on a fixed income and cannot afford to pay your rates, or if you have a financial hardship that makes it difficult for you to pay your rates.
However, rates postponement does not mean that you can avoid paying your rates. You will still have to pay them eventually, and the amount will increase over time due to interest and administration costs.
Special circumstances remission to allow ratepayers to apply for a one-off reduction (up to 100%) in rates for that financial year if they meet certain criteria. This relates to exceptional situations that affect the ratepayer’s ability to pay rates.
Remission for second dwellings on a property to reduce the level of fixed charges that properties may need to pay if they have a second dwelling (separately used or inhabitable part) on the property that is used for family purposes and does not generate any income.
Remission for Buildings Requiring Earthquake Strengthening to provide rates relief for properties temporarily not fit for purpose due to the property undergoing development or earthquake strengthening by reducing the level of general rates.
Provide more flexibility for remissions in the case of properties affected by natural hazard disasters and emergency events. This provides options for Council to be more flexible when such events occur.
While these changes provide opportunities to reduce the immediate burden of rates for some members of our community who are struggling, it would require funding from existing ratepayers. Our preferred option allows for the additional rates remission options outlined, but with a combined limit of $50,000 on rates remissions granted each year.
In addition to this, we propose to introduce the option for ratepayers who are struggling to afford to pay their rates to apply for a rates postponement. To ensure that the level of postponed rates does not significantly impact on our borrowings level and ability to borrow in the future, we are planning to limit the cumulative level of rates postponed to 0.5% of operating income. For the 2023/24 financial year this limit is planned to be approximately $360,000.
What would you do in our position? Help us decide. Visit www.letskorero.horowhenua.govt.nz/RRPP to learn more and make a submission. Consultation opened on Monday 20 October 2023 and closes at 5pm on 20 November 2023. Submissions will be heard on 29 November and Council will prepare to adopt the final Rates Remission & Postponement Policy on 13 December 2023.