It’s not often one retrieves an envelope from the letter box and, upon opening it, feels like they’ve been punched in the face.
And that’s even when said person, in this case yours truly, knew the knuckle sandwich of a letter was coming. I have to admit to not mentally preparing myself sufficiently for the shock that I knew was coming.
That eye-widening shock was, of course, my latest rates bill. I imagine a good number of you, if you also reside in South Wairarapa, may have had the same smack-in-face feeling this week.
Actually, no matter where you live in Wairarapa, the latest rates bill will not have made particularly pleasant reading.
But wait, there is a newsletter and 12 pages of explanatory notes, which will no doubt help me understand why my rates have gone through the roof, so to speak.
Page two of the Community Focus newsletter asks the question: “Why have rates gone up as they have?” A question many of us will have asked this month, I’m sure.
“Rates are charged”, starts the answer, “for the services you have access to and benefit from, and parts are based on the value of your property.” I wonder which parts they are?
I also wonder why it is that councils will often refer to the increased value of a property when they seek to explain a rate rise, but rates never seem to adjust in the other direction when property values go down. And they have gone down about 20-30 per cent in the past 18 months or so. Strange.
Not to worry, the council tells us on page four that it will make every effort to work with you if you are having trouble paying rates.
Given the much bigger rates bill we have all just got, the council could be working with quite a few people in the foreseeable future.
One of the ways the council works with you is to offer several direct debit options for payment of your bill.
Council tells us that this is the “easiest” way to pay your new, much larger rates bill because it authorises the council to simply whip into your bank account and directly withdraw the funds. Just like that, it couldn’t be more straightforward. All the worry about being late has gone. Well, the worry that you might not have enough money in your account to cover the bill is still there, but all the other worry has vanished.
The late payment is a healthy 10 per cent. There is no discount for early payment, just a penalty for late payment. Is there a discount for paying in advance? Did you really need to ask? The answer is no.
There will be defaults. Of this, I have no doubt.
There is a rebate option. Up to $750 for low-income earners. You may know someone.
And, for that matter, the council may remit penalties where it considers that it is fair and equitable to do so. There will be hoops to jump through, but it is worth having this option up your sleeve.