Every year each local council is required to make and levy rates in respect of all rateable properties within its municipal district. The Municipal Institutions Act 1854 (No.26) empowered local councils to make by-laws for the regulation of their own proceedings including the collection of rates. The amount of rate is therefore determined by the council although a statutory limit applies. Rates are the main source of revenue for the council.
The rate record is a record of the levying and payment of rates on rateable properties. Apart from the general rate which is levied equally on all properties, a council may levy an extra rate or a special rate. An extra rate may be levied, over and above the general rate, on a subdivision of a municipality to cover expenses occurred in that subdivision. A special rate may be levied when a council undertakes works for the special benefit of a particular portion of the municipality. Separate rate records are maintained for general, extra and special rates and these are therefore registered as separate series.
For each rateable property a record is created which identifies the property and person rated and includes details of the annual value of the property, the amounts due, amounts paid, arrears and when rates were abandoned. A complete rate record may comprise two parts: a Register of Rateable Properties and a Rates Register. The Register of Rateable Properties identifies the properties and persons rated and the Rates Register comprises the accounting details. Where these two parts exist they are registered separately.
The format of rate records has changed over the years. Initially the levying and payment of rates were recorded in volumes (known as Rate Books) until the introduction of cards (known as Rate Cards) from the 1930s. In the 1980's and 1990's automated systems have mostly been used. Printouts of the automated system are usually produced as the rate record.