Annual Values Assessment

(To the Editor.)
Sir—As suggested in your leading article of 14th. inst. the ratepayers of the District Council of Clare will be wise to approach with a great deal of caution the question upon which they will be asked to record their votes next Saturday, namely the alteration of the system of rating from its present accustomed form to the little-understood system of rating or unimproved land values.
I say ‘little-unuderstood’ (sic) deliberately because I doubt whether even we councillors fully under stand it and its possible effects.
Under our present system, which is based on 5% of the capital value of properties, we all pay for the maintenance of the District—its roads, health services, the hospital, etc.—according to our relative investment in it, so that the more valuable a property becomes, the more it contributes to the District up keep, which surely accords with the accepted principle that the burden of taxation should fall upon those most capable of bearing it.
The alternative, known as the Land Values system, is based upon the unimproved value of the land only, so that, other things being equal, the vacant township block pays the same rate as that upon which a hotel or a house of any kind is built, and impoverished land the same per acre as that which has been raised to a high degree of productivity.
The relative merits of the two systems were very thoroughly investigated in 1949 by a highly competent impartial committee comprised of leading departmental, city and country authorities.
That committees conclusions include these expressions—
‘In many parts of S.A. the Land Values system cannot operate equitably.’
‘Many Councils rating under Land Values cannot raise sufficient revenue to meet their purposes!’
‘The Annual Values system is a more flexible and equitable system for raising rate revenue than is the Land Values System.’
The only justification for the Land Values system of rating is to prevent city lands being held in idleness for speculative purposes. As the district of Clare is one of the most fully developed in the State, this necessity certainly does not arise.
It should be clearly understood, too, that the tentative assessments that have been prepared must not be taken as the final answer to the amount of rates that each will have to pay.
I am no new-comer to this district, nor am I unfamiliar with its problems of development and of Local Government, and my advice to the ratepayers is to stick to the devil they know rather than vote for the devil they don’t know.
Those who agree with me, or are even indifferent, must realise that unless they do vote against the proposal on Saturday, it will be carried in spite of them.
I am, Sir &.,
Mintaro, April 19, 1954.