Clarence Village fighting for rate relief

CLARENCE Village chairman Geoff Shepherd says he is being "ripped off" by the council when it comes to rates.

The aged care facility operator, incorporating Dougherty Villa, said he could not understand why his facility was not eligible for rate relief, despite being a not-for-profit organisation, when the other aged care facilities in the Valley were.

"If (the council) is providing rate relief for six charities, why not seven?" Mr Shepherd said.

"We feel greatly discriminated against."

In a letter Mr Shepherd wrote to The Daily Examiner, he said "all other entities that are recognised by the Australian Charities Commission that are Public Benevolent Institutions and that provide accommodation and services to the aged in the council area except Clarence Village have historically been granted exemption from General Rates".

Mr Shepherd said the battle dated back to 1978 when a former operator contacted the council for assistance with rates, and it was not forthcoming.

Having taken over as chairman of Clarence Village four years ago, it only came to the former government auditor's attention they were paying full rates in November 2013.

"(I) discovered the company was paying general rates to the Clarence Valley Council upon its' properties and was aware that as a Public Benevolent Institution and a charity that we should not be paying those rates," he said.

If (the council) is providing rate relief for six charities, why not seven?

He has since met and spoken with the council a number of times.

Clarence Valley Council general manager Scott Greensill said he and Mayor Richie Williamson met representatives of Clarence Village late last year and explained that if the village met the criteria for rate exemptions it would get them.

"There's no question about them getting the rate relief if they qualify," he said. "But we are not going to provide exemptions for organisations that don't meet the criteria.

"That would mean all other ratepayers are subsidising their rates bill and I don't think that is fair on anyone.

"To qualify, Clarence Village needs to show that it is a not-for-profit organisation in everything it does and, from our reading, that is not the case and the application is still subject to review."

Mr Greensill said a test case involving a number of councils (including the Clarence Valley Council) and Community Housing Inc would help determine what constituted a non-profit corporation.

In that case Community Housing challenged the councils' decision to decline their claim of being a non-profit organisation for rating purposes.

Mr Greensill said the councils defended their decision in the Land and Environment Court and won, but had been advised there was likely to be an appeal.

"Depending on the outcome of that appeal (if it goes ahead) we will have a much clearer picture of the not-for-profit status of organisations like Clarence Village," he said.

"If it finds they are entitled to not-for-profit status they will get the rate exemptions from the date of their application.

"This was explained to them in the meeting last year."

For the 2013/14 year the company has paid General Rates to Council of $18,755.

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