COUNCIL BUDGET: What ‘back to basics’ plan means for you
A DECISION not to raise rates, focus on renewing infrastructure and vow to assist the community’s pensioners were all part of the Whitsunday Regional Council’s 2020/21 budget that was unveiled this morning.
The budget was the first for the new council, which was inducted earlier this year, and the plan was agreed upon unanimously.
Mayor Andrew Willcox said COVID-19 had played a big part in developing the “back to basics” budget that put an emphasis on renewing pre-existing infrastructure and essential services.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, council has been able to maintain essential services to our residents and this budget ensures that we will continue to deliver for our community,” he said.
“My councillors have worked tirelessly to deliver a budget based on the prioritisation of essential services.
“It is also built on our core focus of delivering strong financial management, local jobs and the liveability and economic growth of our region.
“These are unprecedented times and my council has worked hard to ensure there are minimal impacts upon households across the region.”
Cr Willcox said the biggest win from the budget was the resolution to not increase total general residential rates across the region.
“This means that, despite five years of rising fuel, insurance and power costs and loss of income due to COVID-19, council is collecting virtually the same general rates from residential ratepayers as we did in 2016,” he said.
However, residents will see an increase in charges for water and waste.
The average ratepayer will be charged an extra $1.37 per week as the waste utility charge increases by about 50 cents per week and the recycling charge by about 20 cents.
This rise was in part attributed to the upgrade of water and waste facilities across the Whitsundays.
Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker quantified the increase and congratulated the council on delivering a budget during difficult times.
“I’ve looked around the shop and the best I could come up with is a packet of PK chewing gum, they’re $1.50,” he said.
“So our budget is less than a packet of chewy per week.
“We haven’t raised rates in five years. Any financial consultant will tell you that’s probably not a good thing to do because as you know things go up every year.
“But with Cyclone Debbie and now COIVID-19 there’s nothing else we can do. We’ve had to tighten our belts and tighten we have, and we’ve looked under every rock, which we should do every year.”
Cr Brunker said the budget also provided assistance for the “grandpas and grandmas of our community” through a 30 per cent pensioner concession rebate for certain rates and charges.
Cr Willcox also assured residents experiencing financial hardship that measure had been put in place to assist them with their rates.
Along with maintaining essential services, the budget was focused on rebuilding and renewing assets.
These included upgrades to several pools, parks and roads across the region as well as the completion of projects included in the Works for Queensland grants.
Council delivered a surplus of $109,000 from the previous financial year and will commit to debt reduction throughout 2020/21.
Cr Willcox said the council would not take out any new loans this financial year and would focus on “creating a strong local economic stimulus”.
“Almost $5 million has been allocated to reduce our current loans, meaning council will end the next financial year with a debt of approximately $79.7 million and an asset base of $1.2 billion,” he said.
“In simple terms, that compares to effectively owing $80,000 on a $1.2 million home.
“These are unprecedented times and my council has worked hard to ensure there are minimal impacts upon households across the region.
“Under my watch, council have practiced responsible financial management by delivering balanced budgets, significantly increasing our asset base, introducing organisational reform and controlling our debt.”