The NSW Government has confirmed its intention to establish the Fire and Emergency Services Levy (FESL) by enabling legislation in the Parliament. The levy is to be collected alongside Council rates from the 1st July this year on behalf of the State Government.
This new property based levy replaced the Fire Service Levy charged on individual insurance policies bringing NSW in line with all other mainland States.
Under the legislation tabled 7th March 2017, the FESL will be calculated on the unimproved land value determined by the Valuer General the same as council rates, with different rates for residential, public benefit, commercial, industrial and farmland. The levy will comprise of a base amount for each land category, plus a variable rate in the dollar amount based on the land value at a rate in dollar set by the State Government.
Council has undertaken significant work in classifying all land within the shire into the following FESL categories:
- Residential Land – Occupied
- Residential Land – Vacant
- Commercial Land – Occupied
- Commercial Land – Vacant
- Industry Land – Occupied
- Industry Land – Vacant
- Government Land
- Public Benefit Land
There will be a discount for pensioners, war veterans and concession card holders the same as currently being done for Council rates & charges, the actual amount is unknown at this stage.
Council will be forwarding letters on behalf of NSW Treasury to all land owners/ratepayers advising them of the classification of their land by the end of April 2017, the land owners/ratepayers then have 30 days to request a review of the classification and state the reasons they believe the classification is incorrect.
Council will be reimbursed costs on a formula basis for implementing the FESL in 3 instalments:
- First instalment is an up-front payment to cover the cost of employee’s time in the land classification process,
- Second instalment will cover the cost of printing and inserting the land classification notices with Council’s 4th rate instalment notice, and postage for land owners/ratepayers who have already paid their rates in full, and
- Third instalment will be paid after the required software modification are complete and the software is compliant with the FESL requirements.
As this is a new levy that will be included on the Council rate notice for the first time, Council staff are expecting to receive many phone calls and counter enquiries from land owners/ratepayers in July/August 2017 after the rate notices are posted, we have been advised by the State Government to redirect land owners/ratepayers to the FESL hotline or website.
Once the final legislation is passed a link to the FESL website will be added to Council’s website for land owners/ratepayers to access further information.
A further significant change in rating for the next financial year is that all NSW Councils have been revalued to have a common land value base date of 1st July 2016. The current year’s rates were based on land values assessed on 1st July 2015. The difference in these two (2) total land value figures for the Warren Shire is $169,187,440 or an increase by 25.35%. However, it needs emphasising that individual rates levied are not proportionate to the same percentage increase / decrease as the change in valuation. Increases in rates are based on the total yield of rates levied from the previous year.
Since both Council and the new FESL for the next financial year will be based on the new land value, individual ratepayers should check their Rate Notices for both land value and land category.
Property NSW – Valuation Services are planning to hold a series of information sessions from late February until April 2017 on the updated valuations, this used to be undertaken on a one to one Council session but as all NSW Councils have received a revaluation they will be holding regional workshops throughout the state, the regional workshop for Warren Shire will be held in Cobar on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 commencing at 1.00pm.
It is also suggested that any insurance premiums be checked to confirm the existing Fire Service Levy has been removed fully from 1st July 2017.
The NSW Government has established an Insurance Monitor with penalties of up to $10 million for insurers who fail to pass on their reductions to consumers.
Overall, despite initial complications and complexities associated with these changes, it seems a fairer way of part funding essential services such as the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and the State Emergency Service, with many organisations for years lobbying for such changes.
NRF (Rex) Wilson OAM
20th March 2017