Council rates installment payments reach all time high
WHILE many residents across the region are still fuming over last year's rates hike and discount cuts, the second round of payment is now looming.
Residents who took advantage of the instalment option for payment of their rates have less than seven weeks to prepare for the next instalment.
Southern Downs Regional Council chief executive officer David Keenan said there were currently more than 4000 properties on the instalment option.
Mr Keenan said the second instalment was due on March 4, with instalment reminder notices due to be sent out in mid-February.
Ratepayers who chose this option receive no discount on their general rates.
"Discount is only allowed on the general rate and only allowed if all rates and charges are paid in full by the due date of the annual notice," he said.
"This is to encourage early payment.
"If the instalment option is chosen, the discount is forgone however no interest is charged until March 9."
For those who fail to pay the balance of the rates owing under the instalment option by March 4, interest will begin to accrue from March 9.
"Interest accrues at a rate of 11%," he said.
While the final figures are yet to be determined, the outstanding rates at this point in time have increased on last year.
"As at 31 December 2015, outstanding rates are higher than they were last year," Mr Keenan said.
"This is because the instalment option was used more this financial year than last year. "Last year 1130 properties were on the instalment option, this year 4017 properties are."
Mr Keenan said as the due date for the instalment option had not yet passed, it would be premature comment whether as to whether the outstanding rates were concerning.
"Council officers and debt collectors are continually working with ratepayers to ensure that outstanding rates are not left unaddressed," he said.
"It would appear that ratepayers are embracing the instalment option."
While many residents have voiced their frustration at the last rate increase, Mr Keenan said the rates for most properties had been paid in full.
"Of the 18,626 properties that were charged rates in August, 14,609 have either paid in full or have begun prepaying their rates towards the next rates issue," he said.
"(If people are having trouble paying their rates), they should contact council on 1300 697 372 to discuss their payment options.
"An arrangement can be entered into to pay outstanding rates off with a number of ways of paying.
"These include direct debit, BPay and direct deposit."
While the council can sell property for unpaid rates, it is not a process that would happen overnight.
"A rate or charge must remain unpaid for three years before council will consider selling a property for unpaid rates," Mr Keenan said.
He said the instalment option incurred additional costs to council, with extra postage for reminder notices, interest revenue lost and additional administrations costs.
Rates Instalment Payments
Second instalment payment is due March 4
There is no discount on instalment payments
Interest on outstanding rates under the instalment plan to start from March 9
Interest is accrued at a rate of 11%
4017 properties are on the instalment option
Last year, only 1130 properties were paid by instalment