MONASH ratepayers will be slugged an extra charge in a move by the Victorian government that will have councils collect a new fire services levy on behalf of the state.
Next year's rate notices will carry the charge.
Last week, the Baillieu government handed councils the responsibility of collecting the levy.
The extra charge means
insurance premiums will fall for homeowners. The fire services property levy will be used to fund the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and the Country Fire Authority. At present, the MFB and CFA are funded by contributions from the insurance industry, which passes the cost on to customers through premiums.
From next July the levy will replace the insurance model. It comprises:
■ A $100 charge for homes or $200 for commercial and industrial properties.
■ A variable rate on the property's capital improved value.
The shake-up will shift responsibility from insurance companies to local governments.
"Property owners can pay the new levy in the same manner as their rates," Treasurer Kim Wells said.
But the policy has upset Monash councillors and blindsided the state's peak local government body.
At a Monash council meeting last week, CrGeoff Lake accused the state government of forcing councils to be its tax collectors.
"It should keep its own tax to itself," CrLake said.
He labelled the move as "unwise and impractical" and said the levy could mean annual rates were doubled.
"This is not a reform. This is a tax hike. This is something that increases the cost of living."
He said it was unfair to the council and residents. "This is not the most efficient way to fund our fire services."
Cr Tom Morrissey condemned the decision by the state government.
"Fair is fair. Play the game right. I don't see any sense in what they're doing," he said.
Bill McArthur, of the Municipal Association of Victoria, said the organisation found out on Twitter that councils would be collecting the levy. "The media and others knew about the levy and that we were the collector before we were informed."
The MAV made a submission to the Baillieu government last October suggesting that the states should be responsible for collecting the levy but wasn't informed of any developments until now.
"We are concerned that local government will cop the blame for what is a new state tax. If the government was so sure it had a fair and equitable tax, they would've collected it with their own state revenue office rather than hide behind the rate notice of local government."
Cr McArthur said there was no modelling available, making it impossible to tell how homeowners would be affected. "The government is charging ahead with their legislation but can't answer some simple questions."
He raised concerns over the variable rate and whether there would be maximum or minimum charges.
Shadow treasurer Tim Holding said it came as no surprise that the government had failed to notify councils on its plan to collect the levy through them.
"Victorians are entitled to know the answer to the fundamental question, 'how much will they have to pay?"