Council “unites” to deliver 2016/17 budget
WHITSUNDAY Mayor Andrew Willcox has made his message clear - the Whitsunday Regional Council is "unified".
At a special meeting held in Proserpine this morning, Cr Willcox and his new council unanimously adopted the 2016/17 budget.
In contrast to previous years there was no in-fighting or cat-calling across the table and motions were passed 7/0.
In fact, Division 5 Councillor Dave Clark said this was the first budget he had voted for in four years.
"I never thought the previous ones were reasonable," he said.
Despite facing hurdles while preparing his first ever budget, Cr Willcox praised the work of all his councillors, the executive leadership team and senior staff for their commitment to tackling the "difficult process" of creating a fair budget.
"I am proud my councillors have quickly embraced working as a team to ensure we deliver the best outcomes for the future of our diverse region," Cr Willcox said.
"This council is committed to actions speaking louder words.
"To sit on our hands and wait for the other levels of government to deliver is simply not an option for any of us that sit around this table."
The 2016/17 budget has delivered some pleasing outcomes including a 0% increase in average residential rates and an overall 2% increase in rates across all rating categories - with bigger business to foot the bill.
"It was the key objective of this council to keep the rate in the dollar on properties the exact same across the Whitsunday region," Cr Willcox said.
"It follows then that (on) land with a $130,000 valuation, be it in Bowen, Collinsville, Proserpine, Airlie Beach or Cannonvale, the owner will pay exactly the same rates of $1495."
Cr Willcox also promised to deliver on a commitment to pensioners in the region by granting an increased remission on rates.
This means the majority of pensioners will receive a $350 concession, which is an increase of $50 from last year.
Cr Willcox said council had listened to the community's cries on water and granted residential ratepayers the choice of two different methods of water billing.
In September and October, residents can decide whether they'd like to remain under the current two-part tariff water billing system or switch to the allocation system.
Cr Willcox also announced a strengthening of the partnership with Tourism Whitsundays, who will receive an increased funding of $450,000. CEO of Tourism Whitsundays, Craig Turner was over the moon with the decision and said it would help in the growth of tourism across the Whitsundays.
Cr Willcox stressed this council was about improving the levels of service for Whitsunday residents.
"This council is changing the way it does business with its community and this budget is the first step to a better council for a better community," he said.
"What we do today will set the path for our region's future.
"This council is not trying to reinvent the wheel - just to find ways to make it turn more efficiently," he said.