The NT's Valuer General's office has revealed the real reason they failed to attend Katherine's rate forum last month.
Their invitation to the forum only came on the Saturday morning, with the meeting already set for the Monday.
Many residents expressed their surprise and dissatisfaction that the Valuer General's office was not represented given many of their questions could not be answered.
The Valuer General today responded to a series of questions for the Katherine Times which followed the meeting, which residents had want answered.
The Saturday morning invitation was one of the responses.
The late notice would have meant the official in charge of valuing Katherine properties would have received council's request on return to work on Monday - leaving the office scant time to plan or travel the 300kms from Darwin for the meeting that night.
"An invitation was sent to the Valuer General on the Saturday morning immediately preceding the meeting," a Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics spokesman said.
"Due to existing commitments and the late notice, there was insufficient time to organise attendance at the meeting."
Council's decision to hold a meeting came after an earlier miscommunication where many frustrated residents turned up with rates questions, but were unable to ask them because the normal question and answer session was abandoned in favour of a fracking update.
On March 27, the Katherine Times reported the council saying they would hold a dedicated rates meeting for the public to ask questions.
A council press release was posted on April 2 stating a Community Rates Forum at Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre would be held on April 8 at 5.30pm.
Despite the March 26 decision to hold a meeting, the invitation to the Valuer General was not sent until April 6.
Many questions put to the council at the meeting were left unanswered and taken on notice, with the intention of being passed onto the Valuer General.
Between 50-70 people attended the meeting where residents were asked to choose between cutting services or reducing rates to balance the council's budget.
Katherine Town Council this evening failed to respond to our direct question on why the invitation was sent so late to the Valuer General.
This is council's full statement:
"The Katherine Town Council invited the Valuer General yes.
"However, the community forum that was held was regarding rates not the UVC (Unimproved Capital Value).
"The rates forum was used for discussing how rates are processed, why we need a minimum, services we provide that affect the rates and long term planning.
"Katherine Town Council will invite the Valuer General after this years UVCs are determined as this will be more relevant and questions can be asked, making sure the community get their questions answered."
The following is the Valuer General's responses to questions raised at last month's forum:
Why have rates increased when my property value has decreased?
Rates are set exclusively by council and any questions about rate increases are best raised directly with council.
Will rates/UCV change for properties affected by PFAS contamination?
As rates are set exclusively by council, questions regarding rates are best raised directly with council. UCV's are determined through analysis of property sales. The next round of UCV valuations has commenced and new Notices of Valuation will be issued for Katherine in late October 2019.
Will PFAS contamination be considered by the Valuer General when considering this year's revaluation of the Katherine municipality?
Where land values have fallen/risen since last valuation, new UCV's will be assigned to reflect the value of the land as at the July 1, 2019 effective date.
Some of the properties are widely considered to be unsaleable, (particularly those neighbouring the Tindal RAAF base, source of the PFAS contamination) will they still have to pay rates?
As rates are set exclusively by council, questions regarding rates are best raised directly with council.
Will people be able to have the chance to contest UCV?
Yes, the Notice of Valuation detailing UCV will be mailed to land owners in late October 2019. Land owners will then have 30 days to review the assigned UCV and if they wish to object or simply make an inquiry. The notice will have both the phone number and the email address of the Valuer General's office. After the 30-day period has closed in late November 2019, assigned values will then be sent to council and fixed for the next three years.
Will this year's revaluation be adopted by the council for the setting of the 2018-19 rates?
No. The July 1, 2019 UCV's will be sent to council after the Objection period closes in late November 2019. Questions relating to the council rating process and time frames are best directed to the council.
Why are there anomalies in UCV? Especially between commercial and residential properties?
UCV's are assessed based on the highest and best use of a property based on its current zoning. Where one zone is in higher demand, generally the land value is greater. UCV's for all zones are established after reviewing all sales that have settled in the preceding three years with greatest emphasis being placed on those sales that are closest to the July 1, 2019 effective date.
At the meeting Katherine Mayor Fay Miller said the council would lobby for the Valuer General to visit before before the valuation was complete.
In a further post to council's website after the rates meeting, which said it had been a success, council said: "Elected members and Katherine Town Council wanted to give the community an opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns they may have had. It is apparent that a large quantity of concerns lie with the valuations provided by the Valuer General. Katherine Town Council will continue advocating the Valuer Generals attendance at a future forum so that residents queries can be addressed.
"Overall the forum was a success, both elected members and Katherine Town Council understand the passion our community has. It was great to hear that after the presentation that members of the public stated that they were no longer coming in with guns blazing. When a date for the valuer general's visit to Katherine is known, Katherine community will be aware."
Katherine Town Council has been contacted for comment.
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