Budget provides good balance

The Burdekin Shire Council handed down an $81.8 million budget today that aims to provide a good balance between maintaining assets, infrastructure and services, and the ability of the community to pay.

Burdekin Shire Mayor Bill Lowis said the total budgeted rates and charges increase was 4.4 per cent.

“This is quite an achievement considering some of our input costs such as electricity, insurance and construction have risen substantially greater than this amount,” he said.

“This Council has spent considerable time weighing up the needs of our community for minimal increases in rates in charges.

“The major contributors to the general rate are the residential and sugar cane categories and any relief to these sectors has a magnifying effect on the other sectors. This point alone has prevented Council from making any drastic changes to its rating strategy.”

Some of the major projects include:

  • $27.9 million in flood damage restoration works funded by the State and Commonwealth.
  • Allocation of $9.9 million for maintenance and capital works on road, drainage and reseals.
  • Continuation of an eight-year program to provide kerbing and channelling and bitumen widening to urban streets that do not require major underground drainage at a cost of $777,000.
  • Major drainage schemes totalling $1 million including Muguira Drain and Spiller Street, Ayr.
  • Provision of street lighting $567,700.
  • Sewerage projects of $800,000 include the continuation of the sewerage pipe relining program, the new generator for No 1 Sewer Pump Station in Ayr, refurbishment of the sewerage pump stations and replacement of existing telemetry.
  • Water projects of $950,000 include a general refurbishment of assets, installing variable speed pumps at South Ayr Water Treatment Plant, replacing aerators at Home Hill Water Tower and Council will investigate, test and establish alternative water supply sites in the Rossiters Hill/Mirrigan area to assist in combating iron and manganese in the water supplies.
  • Waste infrastructure projects include the upgrading of the Ayr Transfer Station ($75,000), Giru Transfer Station Oil Shed ($10,000), Kirknie Landfill Greenwaste Pad ($35,000), and design of Kirknie Landfill cell liner ($80,000).
  • Complete detail design of Ayr Pool – $37,500 in new funds;
  • Completion of skate park/recreation facility for Home Hill ($60,000);
  • Upgrading the Home Hill Cemetery Sextons Hut ($95,000);
  • An upgrade to the PABX system ($100,000);
  • Support for welfare and community with funding up to an estimated $812,000 to be distributed to various welfare, cultural, sporting and community based organisations in the Shire through grants, in-kind support and rebates.

Cr Lowis said Council was aware of what the community was telling councillors.

“We are also aware that we are custodians of the community’s assets and we therefore need to take care of the assets and make sure they last for future generations,” he said.

“New infrastructure and services to meet the needs and expectations of the community has to be seriously considered in light of its affordability by the community.

“There is already cost-cutting built into this budget with the majority of our input costs expected to rise at or above the 4.4 per cent rates and charges increase.

“Large scale capital works have been deferred, our road maintenance estimate has been reduced by $165,000 and our contribution to the Burdekin Cultural Complex Board has effectively been cut by $60,000.

“Because our Shire and revenue base is not expanding, we need to reduce our expenditures as much as reasonably possible.”

Cr Lowis said permanent savings could be made by opting out of services or reducing service levels.

“This is an area we may have to look at during the year,” he said. “Such decisions are more difficult as they affect ratepayers and the community, and this is one area that all councillors, staff and the community need to be aware of.

“We are expecting to borrow $1.92 million this year and our expected external debt level will be $7.58 million.”

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