Unpaid rates exceed $1 million
Tararua ratepayers are more than $1 million out of pocket and they have only themselves to blame.
The Tararua District Council is owed $1,052,958 in unpaid rates.
The figure, provided under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act, is for commercial, rural and residential properties. Council chief executive Blair King said a chunk of it would be for historical debt but it was a figure he was comfortable with.
The expected rates take was about $20m each year and the council allowed for up to 2 per cent of that not being paid, he said. "It is not significant, compared with other businesses who would love to have 98 per cent of their payments."
Mr King said the amount owing jumped once penalties kicked in.
Often people had a reason for not being able to pay, such as the power bill getting in the way or the tax collector knocking on the door.
"I know what is going to be paid first, because Inland Revenue can impose much harsher penalties than we can."
But there was a range of ways the council could deal with issues and recoup the money.
"The most obvious one is a phone call . . . and finding out their reasons," Mr King said. For more serious cases, the council could apply to have the land declared abandoned and, effectively, sell it from under the feet of the owner.
It is a process Tararua District Council staff have used before, with 13 properties in the abandoned land process as of June this year.
Those properties owed nearly $140,000 in overdue rates.
Mr King said it was not a common step, as it would not always pay off.
The cost of legal action could outweigh any potential rates recoveries.
The council could vote to cancel rates debts, which sometimes happened in cases like that.
Mr King said the council was always looking at ways to make sure rates were paid on time and that included consideration of how much rates were put up.
"It's about bringing things into the district versus what people can actually afford and trying to balance it," Mr King said.
"There are people who can pay it and it's an expense, through to those for who even a $2 a week change is the difference between balancing the budget and being over."
All councils in the Horizons region would have outstanding rates.
"If people haven't paid their Tararua rates, they probably haven't paid their Horizons ones either."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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