Sydney ratepayers told they owed council $1 or less in rates


Source: Jim O’Rourke, Manly Daily

Nearly 700 shocked Sydney ratepayers told they owed council $1 or less in rates

HUNDREDS of northern beaches property owners have been sent council notices asking them to pay as little as one cent in “overdue” rates.

Close to 700 bill-shocked ratepayers were sent notices telling them they were in arrears for tiny amounts ranging from $1 to just one cent.

Jill Bowen with her 2 cents. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly Daily

The ratepayers, who had already paid their bills in full, were also warned they would be charged interest at a rate of 7.5 per cent a year if they did not pay up by the end of the month.

While the council has confirmed the arrears notices were sent to 698 ratepayers last week, it blamed an “administrative error” for the mailout.

Jill Bowen's notice from council demanding she pay 1 cent in arrears. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly Daily

It is understood to be an issue with a computer-linked mail merge program that allows the council to produce multiple letters using information stored on its rates database.

The council’s acting CEO Helen Lever apologised yesterday for the oversight, saying that normally the council would not chase up such small amounts.

But Forestville resident Jill Bowen said she was angered when she saw she was in arrears, even though she had paid her rates in full last August.

The 2 cent piece Jill attempted to pay with. Picture: Adam Yip / Manly Daily

Ms Bowen said it was annoying to be told she owed money and then finding out that the council was chasing her for just one cent.

The retired journalist and author received her original rates notice in July last year and paid the whole amount — $2284.96 — in cash at Forestville Post Office on August 2.

But the Post Office receipt showed it had rounded the amount down to $2284.95 and transferred that amount to the council.

“I was pretty damn annoyed, to be honest, having paid the rates in full — I thought — last year,” Ms Bowen said.

Acting Northern Beaches Council CEO Helen Lever. Picture: Supplied

“I think this is a frivolous and a stupid waste of ratepayers’ money and probably cost a couple of bucks to send out my mail and process it.”

Ms Bowen, who tried unsuccessfully to pay her arrears at the Dee Why council chambers this week, using a 2c coin, also had a swipe at Mayor Michael Regan for pushing for a 2.3 per cent rates rise while council was chasing people for one cent.

“I wanted to tell them to ‘Suck it up, snowflakes, I’m not paying’,” she said.

In a video response sent to the Manly Daily, Ms Lever said: “Unfortunately, a number of our residents received (a notice) for a very small amount of $1 or less, which normally we would take out, and absorb, because it’s such a small amount.

“On this occasion it was an oversight — an administrative error — and they were sent out.

“For that we are really sorry to those residents.”

Ms Lever said residents with concerns about this issue or other rates notices should contact a council customer service centre.


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