Coun­cil de­fends its 4.95% rates hike

Central and North Burnett Times - - NEWS - Tobi Lof­tus tobi.lof­

NORTH Bur­nett Re­gional Coun­cil Mayor Rachel Cham­bers has de­fended the coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to im­pose a 4.95% rate rise on North Bur­nett residents.

Cr Cham­bers said the coun­cil had fol­lowed ad­vice and the leg­is­la­tion they had to abide by.

“There is a sim­plis­tic view that coun­cil just chooses to whack a rate rise on residents, this couldn't be fur­ther from the truth,” Cr Cham­bers said.

“Not one coun­cil­lor wants to give a rate rise; I mean se­ri­ously why would we.

“Do we en­joy the flack, the com­ments, the ten­sion, the strain on our pub­lic, not at all, but we all signed up for a job and we have to abide by the job rules.

“We have a leg­is­la­tion, and are mon­i­tored to make sure we abide by this, to do all we can to re­main sus­tain­able.”

Cr Cham­bers said the rates, which have gone up from a min­i­mum $676 to $709 for a res­i­den­tial prop­erty on less than 1ha, could have been higher.

“This year Queens­land Trea­sury mod­elled that our rates rise by 5% to take us out of deficit by 2020, some­thing ex­tremely im­por­tant to gov­ern­ment,” she said.

“We did ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to take it be­low the in­crease that was set, even if it was re­duced frac­tion­ally.

“Elected coun­cil ab­so­lutely un­der­stands and ap­pre­ci­ates peo­ple's feel­ings to­wards a rate rise how­ever rest as­sured in the knowl­edge that we did the best we could this year.”

Cr Cham­bers said there were other fac­tors that also lead to the in­crease.

“The other fac­tor work­ing against us this year was the DERM amal­ga­ma­tion of prop­er­ties,” she said.

“This has al­lowed peo­ple with prop­er­ties, in the same name, to amal­ga­mate them and thus has de­creased our rate­able prop­er­ties.

“This change alone has equated to an in­crease in 1% on rates this fi­nan­cial year.

“The an­swer to lower rates is to in­crease our pop­u­la­tion, de­crease our ex­penses and in­crease our grants from state and fed­eral level; Coun­cil is ac­tively work­ing on all of these ar­eas.”

Cr Cham­bers said the al­most 40% in­crease to road fund­ing in the bud­get was about mak­ing roads safer.

“It was made clear dur­ing the elec­tion that roads are a prob­lem and that the ma­jor­ity of rate pay­ers wanted roads to be ad­dressed and ac­tioned in a timely man­ner,” she said.

“The fo­cus will be on bring­ing gravel roads up to an ac­cept­able stan­dard for safety and im­prov­ing our roads that pro­vide eco­nomic value to our re­gion.

“This in­cludes prop­er­ties that sup­ply our hor­ti­cul­ture and agri­cul­ture in­dus­tries through­out the en­tire North Bur­nett re­gion.

“The bud­get also fo­cuses on the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of our towns, ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the pub­lic and im­prov­ing ef­fi­cien­cies are high on the pri­or­i­ties of coun­cil as these were the three ma­jor ar­eas in which residents wanted change. Coun­cil needs to get these ba­sics right.”

Cr Cham­bers also ad­dressed con­cerns about rates be­tween the re­gion and costal ar­eas. ”As for our rates be­ing sim­i­lar to those on the coast yet they have bet­ter con­ve­niences and fa­cil­i­ties, there is no dis­agree­ment from coun­cil that this is the case in some in­stances,” she said.

“The big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween (us and) places like Fraser Coast is hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity.

“The me­dian sale price in the last 12 months be­ing $152,000 in the North Bur­nett and $300,000 in Fraser Coast.”

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