ARMIDALE Regional Council has refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the NSW Government on a major reform to the funding of fire and emergency services.
From July 1 2017 the insurance-based Emergency Services Levy (ESL) will be replaced by an Emergency Services Property Levy (ESPL) that will bring NSW in line with other mainland states.
The proposed reform will see councils responsible for collecting the levy from land owners and the Government expects the ESPL will appear as a separate line on council rate notices.
Armidale Regional Council Interim General Manager Glen Wilcox stressed that the levy was imposed by state government.
“The previous model wasn’t unfair, in the past insurance was paid by local government and council but now all rate-able properties will be charged.
“The contribution to council for us to collect the levy is unknown, and the reason why we have delayed signing the Memorandum of Understanding is because we need more advice on how the levy will be collected from ratepayers,” he said.
At current only businesses and households with insurance contribute to the ESL despite the fact that the broader community benefits from emergency services.
Under the new levy all property owners will contribute to the financial support of rural fire services and the State Emergency Services.
The new arrangements will see rates for those on properties without insurance rise on average by $160 a year.
Households that are already well-insured with modest rates are likely to save $40 a year.
According to the governments 2012 paper on the issue, 49 per cent of the levy was paid by business through their insurance, business’s share is expected to drop to 13 per cent under the new system based on rates.
Currently owners or occupiers of residential properties pay 45 per cent of the levy, this will rise to 75 per cent under the rates-based system.
Armidale Regional Council is expected to sign the MOU once more information has been provided about how the levy will be collected from ratepayers and what the contribution to council will be for this service.