Thursday, June 27, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Rising Costs Results In Rates Rise

Mackay Regional Council’s 2024-2025 budget has included a rates increase in line with CPI with no reduction in services in a climate of escalating costs.

Mayor Greg Williamson said council understood that many people in the Mackay region were doing it tough, with cost-of-living increases putting pressure on household budgets.

He said council, like any business or household, was also being impacted by rising costs.

“This has been a tough budget to frame, but we’ve worked hard to keep the cost of delivering services the community expects down as much as possible so as to not burden ratepayers.”

The new budget, adopted by council today, includes a rates increase of 3.6 per cent, meaning the average residential ratepayer will pay $3623 per year. That equates to an extra $133 per year, or an extra $2.56 a week.

Mayor Williamson said council was also reducing the discount for payment during the discount period from 10 per cent to six per cent in the new budget to provide a more “socially equitable” rating structure.

“The most vulnerable ratepayers, many of whom must enter payment plans, aren’t eligible for the discount,’’ Mayor Williamson said.

“They are effectively subsidising ratepayers who receive the discount,’’ he said.

The 10 per cent discount in the current year’s budget equated to $19.91 million in revenue raised but then distributed back to ratepayers who could afford to use the discount.

That will drop to $12.44 million in the 2024-2025 year due to the change to a six per cent discount.

The difference, of more than $7 million, can be distributed to council operations and ensure rate rises can be kept lower, meaning ratepayers not in a position to access the discount aren’t disadvantaged further.

Mayor Williamson said the budget delivered on council’s expressed desire over many years for rates increases to be in line with, or lower than, inflation.

“To be able to manage this in a climate of escalating costs while maintaining, or improving service levels, is a testament to the hard work of staff in driving efficiencies throughout the organisation,” he said.

“And once again, Federal Assistance Grants have been reduced, this time from $5 million last year to $4.5 million.”

The 2024-2025 budget forecasts $442.9 million in expenditure, including an operational budget of $313 million and more than $130 million for capital projects.

The budget delivers a modest surplus of just over $300,000.

“The budget reflects a large, modern, regional local government delivering extensive services and facilities,’’ Mayor Williamson said.

Mayor Williamson said this, of course, was the first budget adopted by the newly elected council following the local government elections in March.

CEO Scott Owen said the forecast surplus was financially responsible as it meant council was raising only the rates revenue it believed was needed to deliver infrastructure and services for the region.

“That is why we’re able to keep the rates rise at 3.6 per cent, which is in line with CPI, with no reduction in services,’’ Mr Owen said.

“We’re also able to deliver important projects as part of our capital works program and at the same time include ongoing investment in asset renewal,” he said.

“The budget is designed to ensure we are well positioned to meet the needs of the community, not only now, but well into the future as part of our Long-Term Financial Forecast.”

Maintaining And Renewing Ageing Assets Key Part Of Capital Program

Council’s new budget includes a capital spend of more than $130 million, includ-ing investment in key pieces of new infrastructure, as well as maintaining and re-newing ageing assets.

A big line item in the budget is $9.2 million for culvert rehabilitation projects.

“This is a good example of the costs involved in the continuous renewal and re-placement program to address the region’s ageing infrastructure,” said Mayor Greg Williamson.

“Much of the capital investment won’t be noticeable to ratepayers and residents as a lot of it is underground, but it nevertheless includes extremely important pro-jects,” he said.

“For example, there is $7.6 million for drainage projects and $9.3 million for sew-erage pump stations.

“There’s also $5.9 million for the Bloomsbury Water Supply Scheme in the north-ern part of our region.”

CEO Scott Owen said council had been successful in securing government grant funding for various capital projects, which lessened the burden on rate payers.

He said, for example, the Bloomsbury Water Supply Scheme had $2 million in grant funding.

“There is $5 million for completion of the Paradise and Webberley streets intersec-tion signalisation, which is under construction,” Mr Owen said.

“This project received more than $1.96 million in grant funding,” he said.

“There’s also $6.7 million for pavement improvement projects, $9.9 million for bridge projects and $5.5 million for flood protection works.”

Boosting Liveability With A Focus On Signature Projects

Signature projects aimed at improving the liveability of the region will receive a boost as part of council’s 2024-2025 Budget.

As well as $11.7 million for ongoing construction of the Northern Beaches Com-munity Hub, there is also $1.3 million to continue investigation work for stage two of the Finch Hatton Mountain Bike project.

Mayor Greg Williamson said the Northern Beaches Community Hub project was the largest capital spend of the new budget.

“Stage 1A, including an undercover multipurpose court and nature play area, is al-ready under construction,” he said.

The Australian Government recently announced funding assistance of $15 million under its Growing Regions Program for stage 1B of this key piece of infrastructure to service the rapidly growing Northern Beaches area.

Stage 1B includes a library, meeting rooms and café.

The budget also includes $4.6 million for ongoing City Centre and Riverside im-provements, as well as $3.8 million for stage two of the Resource Centre of Excel-lence.

Signature projects infographic

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