Council keeps increases low in face of rising input costs

The Burdekin Shire Council handed down a $60.6 million budget today that aims to shield ratepayers from the full effect of rising costs.

Burdekin Shire Mayor Bill Lowis said the total budgeted rates and charges increase compared to last financial year was 4.1 per cent.

“Our current modelling indicates that 72 per cent of all rateable properties will experience either a decrease in rates and charges or at worst a five per cent increase,” he said.

“Sixty-eight per cent of all residential properties and virtually all sugar cane properties will experience either a decrease in rates and charges or at worst a five per cent increase.

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

“Council is aware of what our community is telling us, but there is also awareness that we are the custodians of the community’s assets. We therefore need to take care of the assets we have and make sure they last for future generations.

“We also must ensure we can fund new essential infrastructure and services to meet the needs and expectations of the community.”

Some of the major projects include:

  •  Allocation of $9.3 million for maintenance and capital works on roads, drainage and reseals.
  • Allocation of $8.4 million for flood damage restoration following recent flood events.
  • 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 $742,000.
  • Major drainage schemes for Andersen Street, Ayr to Beach Road at a cost of $300,000. Other major drainage scheme work totalling $120,000.
  • Provision of street lighting $493,000.
  • Refurbishment of Millaroo Pool $150,000.
  • Allowance for an additional animal control officer to assist in the area of dog control.
  • Refurbishment of the Home Hill Comfort Stop $100,000.
  • Provision for skate park/recreation facility for Home Hill and Giru $60,000.
  • Support for pensioners through the Council Pensioner Remission is estimated at $283,200.
  • Funding up to an estimated $700,000 will be distributed to various welfare, cultural, sporting and community based organisations in the Shire through grants, in-kind services or sewerage charge rebates.

Cr Lowis said the majority of council input costs were expected to rise at or above four per cent and council already had cut costs in this Budget.

“We have deferred large-scale capital projects such as the Sutcliffe Estate Sewerage Scheme and the Ayr and Home Hill Pool replacements until hopefully some State Government subsidies are restored,” he said.

“We are not considering any water park feature for the Shire because it is simply unaffordable, both for initial establishment and annual maintenance and operation.”

Cr Lowis said some of the savings were not permanent and would be reintroduced in future budgets.

“Permanent savings can be made by opting out of services or reducing service levels,” 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.”

Cr Lowis said a plus factor for a sustainable financial future was the Council’s debt levels.

“We are expecting to borrow only $415,000 this year and our expected external debt level will be $7.23 million,” he said.

“This compares to a debt level of $12.1 million in 2005-06. The projected level is relatively low and gives us the capacity to raise additional borrowings in future years for infrastructure upgrades.”

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