Wollongong's tardiest ratepayers revealed

Wollongong residents owe their cash-strapped council a hefty $7.5 million in overdue rates, according to information provided to the Mercury.

According to council figures as of July 1, Wollongong City Council ratepayers have an overdue bill totalling more than $9.5 million - including more than $2 million owed from businesses, mining companies and farms.

This represents 5.7 per cent of the total rates charged.

According to the council's breakdown of how much money is owed in each suburb, the tardiest ratepayers live in Dapto, owing a collective $507,856 to the council.

The bills for Berkeley and Woonona add up to more than $400,000 for each suburb, and Wollongong and Kanahooka residents owe upward of $300,000.

And, according to a rates notice obtained by the Mercury, one ratepayer in Coledale owes more than $37,000.

Based on today's rates for that home, this represents more than 24 years of overdue charges.

The city's rates bill also includes $2.2 million owed by pensioners, which the council's finance manager, Brian Jenkins, said were not subject to the usual legal recovery processes.

"We have a policy for pensioners which says we won't commence legal action against them," he said.

"This effectively means pensioners can choose not to pay their rates - although they still pay interest on their account - and basically use that like a reverse mortgage.

"But a rate debt is what you call a debt on the land, so it's always recoverable. When they decide to transfer their house or someone is doing that for their estate, then the rates are paid at that time."

He said the Coledale ratepayer owing more than $37,000 could be a pensioner choosing not to pay their rates, or may be simply unknown to the council and therefore not able to be subject to legal action.

The rates notice for the house is simply addressed to "the occupier".

Despite the city's seemingly high overdue rates bill, Mr Jenkins said the 5.7 per cent outstanding was on par with other similar councils and only just above the industry target of 5 per cent in unpaid rates.

"That usually stays fairly steady over the years, although over the last couple of years we've had a little bit of an increase in the amount outstanding and then this year we've had quite a significant decrease," he said.

"We have been working fairly hard on making sure our rates recovery processes work and that the letters are going out and being effective, and that we're having that communication with our customers."

Mr Jenkins said having millions of dollars in unpaid rates did not affect the council's overall revenue as all charges were paid eventually through land sales.

He also said the council's 8.5 per cent interest charges on unpaid rates provided "a fairly significant disincentive" to not pay rates on time.

"Our main concern is that if people get themselves too far down that path, then it's very hard for them to recover," Mr Jenkins said.

"We try pretty hard to keep in contact with those customers and we have hardship policies if they can't pay."

Outstanding rates by suburb 

suburb | rates owing* 

  1. Dapto $507,856
  2. Berkeley $436,333
  3. Woonona $401,723
  4. Wollongong $376,026
  5. Kanahooka $334,200
  6. Figtree $297,588
  7. Horsley $292,420
  8. Corrimal $238,901
  9. Koonawarra $220,727
  10. Bulli $210,818
  11. Unanderra $202,370
  12. Helensburgh $193,677
  13. Fairy Meadow $192,634
  14. Thirroul $185,506
  15. Port Kembla $184,643
  16. Warrawong $181,494
  17. West Wollongong $175,204
  18. Towradgi $166,674
  19. Austinmer $165,430
  20. Bellambi $162,280
  21. Balgownie $158,010
  22. Cringila $151,713
  23. Lake Heights $148,552
  24. Coledale $128,681
  25. Primbee $117,901
  26. Cordeaux Heights $115,956
  27. Farmborough Heights $113,079
  28. Mount Kembla $110,082
  29. Wombarra $103,739
  30. Mount Saint Thomas $94,607
  31. Mount Keira $93,667
  32. East Corrimal $84,266
  33. Mangerton $83,418
  34. North Wollongong $80,044
  35. Tarrawanna $71,121
  36. Keiraville $69,762
  37. Gwynneville $67,306
  38. Windang $66,842
  39. Coniston $65,952
  40. Penrose $62,684
  41. Stanwell Park $55,918
  42. Russell Vale $53,777
  43. Scarborough $43,016
  44. Mount Ousley $42,855
  45. Kembla Grange $32,587
  46. Mount Pleasant $31,182
  47. Stanwell Tops $26,088
  48. Otford $25,599
  49. Brownsville $24,643
  50. Huntley $21,346
  51. Fernhill $18,686
  52. Haywards Bay $18,210
  53. Yallah $12,913
  54. Avondale $8841
  55. Maddens Plains $7787
  56. Clifton $2290
  57. Lilyvale $1559
  58. Coalcliff $1382
  59. Wongawilli $1200
  60. Marshall Mount $709
  61. Darkes Forest $326
  62. Kembla Heights $92
  63. Cleveland $33

TOTAL $7,544,933

*at July 1

Source: Wollongong City Council


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