ORANGE City Council’s quest to ramp up efforts to recover unpaid rates this year has paid off with only 7.44 per cent outstanding compared to 9.87 per cent at the same time last year.
But Orange ratepayers were not as quick off the mark paying their council rates as their Dubbo counterparts, with the council ending the financial year with only 4.26 per cent or $1.72 million worth of rates unpaid, figures in the councils’ latest annual reports reveal.
Orange ratepayers owed the council $2.78 million of the $37.3 million payable for the year, as of June 30.
Of the three councils, Bathurst ratepayers owed the most with the council ending the year with 8.47 per cent of rates outstanding worth $2.92 million.
Although Orange’s percentage outstanding last year was 2.43 per cent higher, the lower rates meant the council was only owed $1.9 million.
The deteriorating outstanding rate percentage was flagged as an issue by the council’s financial auditor last year and prompted several councillors to suggest ratepayers were struggling to pay because of Orange’s high rates.
Council spokesman Nick Redmond said the council reviewed its debt recovery procedures when concerns were raised in the 2011/12 audit report.
“We reintroduced reminder letters after each instalment and staff have spent more time on debt recovery,” he said
“We definitely stepped up efforts to recover outstanding rates and the hard work of the staff involved appears to have had some success.”
Ratepayers receive a notice at least 30 days before a payment is due, but if payment is not made on the due date interest starts accruing at a rate of 9 per cent set by IPART.
The council sends accounts to debt recovery agents when two instalments are outstanding, at the six months or 180 day mark.
The agents send a seven-day letter of demand to encourage some payment or arrangements to be made and the council only proceeds to a statement of claim to begin legal proceedings - including the potential sale of the ratepayers’ property - if there is no resolution 21 days after the seven-day letter is sent.
“We consider the costs involved to ratepayers in proceeding to statement of claim prior to this are too high in comparison to the amount of the debt,” he said.