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'Council won't be paying for departments mistake'

Thursday, 29th May, 2008

Local ratepayers will not be footing the bill for a blunder committed by two State Government departments, according to City Council.

The Teacher Housing Authority (THA) has asked Council for a refund of $19,370 in rates paid on two teachers' flats in the grounds of the Broken Hill High School in Wolfram Street.

The THA said it should never have had to pay the rates because the title to the flats was passed onto the Department of Education in 1993. The THA sought a refund of the rates paid since then.

Land owned by the Department of Education is not subject to rates under the Local Government Act, but any property owned by the THA must pay Council rates and charges. 

The trouble for the State Government bodies was that they transferred the title between them without bothering to notify the Department of Lands or anyone else.

To this day, the Department of Lands' records has the THA listed as the owner of the flats, said Des Bilske, Council's Manager of Governance and Community.

But a title search through the Lands Titles Office reveals the owner as being the Minister of Education, Mr Bilske told Council.

He also said that the titles search showed that ownership of the flats was transferred in 1995.

City Council was not informed of the blunder until last year and Mr Bilske described the THA's request as "extraordinary."

"Council has no budget provision for such an extraordinary request. Any refund will need to be met by an additional budget vote or by transfer from other budget provisions," he said.

Frank Zaknich, Council's General Manager, told Wednesday night's monthly meeting that the government departments had made the mistake and Council would not be paying for it.

Council had been considering offering the THA a compromise but Mr Zaknich recommended instead that it be given a refund of the rates paid only since September 7 last year - the day Council was informed of the mistake.

Council's Administrator, Ken Boyle, told the meeting that he thought this was a good course of action.

"That sounds like a much better recommendation and I'm happy to approve it," Mr Boyle said.

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