By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greater Dandenong Council is tight-lipped on a resident-mooted “opportunity” to reduce the Keysborough South open-space levy by 20 per cent.
The $70 reduction on the $350 annual charge has been proposed by residents Domenic Boccari and Keysborough South Ward ALP-member candidate Ramy El-Sukkari.
The levy has been imposed since 2006 to cover the maintenance costs for the ward’s expanses of open space – said to be 15 per cent larger and higher quality than other Greater Dandenong wards.
It raised $1.55 million in 2019-’20.
However, the council has stated to the pair that 20 per cent of the open spaces comprise of waterways maintained by Melbourne Water.
This “overlap” up to the highwater marks creates an opportunity for a possible 20 per cent levy reduction, the residents argue.
After meeting with council officers, Mr El-Sukkari said the council took the question on notice but hadn’t confirmed whether residents had been overcharged by 20 per cent.
He said residents were already paying maintenance levies to both the council and Melbourne Water.
“We looked at it and asked does that mean there’s an overlap in term of the fees? And does that mean there’s an opportunity for residents to get 20 per cent off?
“They didn’t come back with a clear answer.
“The council officers can only make a case but it’s a decision that needs to be taken by councillors.”
Mr El-Sukkari said he wanted to ensure the “magnificent” open spaces and facilities are maintained.
“We want to make sure the spaces are there but that we’re paying only our fair share.”
Rival ALP-member candidate Stephen Fanous has pledged to petition residents to scrap the “unfair” levy entirely.
“Those facilities are used and made available to all people in the City of Greater Dandenong.
“Now more than ever, especially with Covid-19, people are going through tough times and we need to work as hard as we can to remove it.”
Greens candidate Rhonda Garad argued for the levy but better ‘value-for-money’ service.
Greater Dandenong corporate services director Mick Jaensch said: “All relevant facts associated with the Keysborough South Maintenance Levy will be tabled to the incoming Council following the election for their consideration.”