Council rates

Council rates in South Australia

What are council rates?

Council rates are collected by South Australian councils to fund essential services and facilities for their communities.

Almost everyone who owns property in the state is required to pay rates to their local council. This includes homes, farms and businesses.

SA councils spend over $2 billion a year servicing their regions. This can include infrastructure renewal, community programs or maintaining parks and reserves. Almost 70% of council revenue comes from rates.

Other funding comes from state and federal government grants, and fees and charges.

In South Australia, council rates are a form of property tax, not a fee for service. Council rates represent less than 4% of the total taxes paid by Australians. South Australian households pay on average around $31 per week  in council rates.

South Australian councils are responsible for around $27 billion worth of public assets.

How are council rates calculated in South Australia?

To calculate council rates, councils first decide on the services, infrastructure and programs they will deliver for the coming year. This is set out in their Annual Business Plan and Budget.

Councils use this budget to work out how much money they need to collect through rates.

Councils divide the amount of funding they need by the total value of properties in the council area. This gives councils a figure called the ‘rate in the dollar’. The rate in the dollar is then multiplied by the value of an individual property.

Councils use the value of a property to work out how much each ratepayer should pay.

For example, if the rate in the dollar is 0.00254 and the property value is $200,000, the rates for that property will be $508.

Councils can use valuations provided by the State Government’s Office of the Valuer-General or a private valuer. Most councils use valuations from the Valuer-General. You can object to your property valuation if you think it is incorrect.

To find information about objections, check your rates notice or visit your council website.

Councils have flexibility to decide how to set their rates. They can use one rate that applies to everyone, or they may have different rates for different types of properties and locations.

For example, a residential rate may be different to a commercial and industrial rate.

Some councils may also need to include other service charges, such as wastewater or sewer management. These services are listed separately on a council rates notice.

If you are struggling financially or need support to pay your rates you can ask your council for options.

Why do council rates increase?

Council rates can increase for many reasons. For example, some councils need extra funding to repair damage from natural disasters. Other councils may face rising costs of materials and services.

Sometimes councils increase rates so they can continue to fund essential services for their communities and remain financially sustainable. At times, they need to raise rates because of inflation.

Above all else, councils work hard to keep rates affordable for residents. Many councils have reduced the impact of rising costs by limiting rate increases and finding better ways to deliver essential services.

When suburbs grow and develop, councils need to provide new services like roads, footpaths, street trees, bins and lights.

This growth may need extra funding from rates so that council can make a new area liveable and safe.

When considering rate increases, councils will balance community needs with the potential impact on ratepayers. Visit your council website to understand more about your rates.

Why are council rates different across South Australia?

Each South Australian council is unique and has its own requirements. Councils can also set rates in different ways. This allows councils to tailor their rates to their community’s needs. Councils plan rates based on the services, programs and facilities they deliver. This means council rates are different across councils, because every council is different.

Some councils in SA have more residential areas, and some have more commercial properties. The size and population of a council area can also impact rates. Property values in one council area can also be different from another.

Location can also affect rates. For example, a regional coastal area and a busy suburban area will have very different needs.

These factors all contribute to different rates for each council.

Understanding your council

What do council rates pay for in South Australia?

Council rates help pay for services and programs in your community. They are the main source of income for South Australian councils.

Councils use rates to take care of local infrastructure like parks, public spaces and roads. Council rates are vital for keeping suburbs and regions vibrant, safe and clean.

Exactly what council rates pay for depends on where you live. Some of the common programs and services councils are required to fund include:

  • waste collection
  • emergency management and fire prevention
  • building and maintaining roads, kerbs and footpaths
  • planning and building applications
  • food safety inspections
  • dog and cat management.

Other services councils can choose to deliver might include:

  • parks, reserves and playgrounds
  • sports grounds and swimming centres
  • community support for libraries and public health initiatives
  • business support
  • festivals and events.

Council budgets and funding

How do South Australian councils plan their budget?

Each year, South Australian councils develop a draft Annual Business Plan and Budget that sets out projects and services for the coming year. Councils consider the current and future needs of the community. The draft plan and budget are then shared with the public for feedback.

Consultation usually occurs between April and June. This gives the community a chance to have their say on how their council’s funds should be spent.

Following feedback, councils can make changes to the budget. It is then finalised and approved by elected council members.

Councils also ask the community for feedback on projects during the year. This ensures council plans reflect the needs and priorities of the people living in the area.

During the year, councils watch their spending and can adjust their budget if needed. This means councils stay on track and meet the needs of the community.

How to have your say on how council rates are spent?

How are councils funded in South Australia?

South Australian councils have three main sources of revenue to fund essential services and programs:

  • Council rates. Approximately 70% of council funding comes from rates.
  • Fees and charges such as hall hire or entry to a community event.
  • Grants and subsidies from Federal and State Government.

Councils plan their Annual Business Plan and Budget to understand the total funds they need for the next year. Councils then work out the funds they will need from council rates. To do this, they take the total funds and minus what they receive from fees, charges, grants and subsidies. The amount left over is the funding the council will need to source from council rates.

Financial assistance and payment options

If you’re experiencing financial hardship or loss of income and need help paying your rates, your council may be able to help. Most councils will provide flexible options for payments, depending on your circumstance.

Some of the ways council may help include:

  • payment plans and extensions
  • reducing fines or interest for late payment
  • referral to an Accredited Financial Counsellor

Seniors may also have options to postpone their rates payment.

Contact your council to talk about alternative payment arrangements. All enquiries are confidential.

Getting feedback from the community

Community engagement is an essential part of how councils work. When it comes to rates, every council must make the final decision on what will be charged at a public council meeting. Visit your council to find out how your council has decided rates for this year.

Each year, you can provide feedback on council matters. This includes having your say on the Annual Business Plan and Budget and giving feedback on projects developed throughout the year. You can talk with your council to share what's important for your area.

Visit your council website to learn how you can give feedback.

Find your local council. Type your address into the map of SA councils to find your council area.

Fact sheets on council rates