Councillors try to vote down budget
Debt reduction not enough for Jamieson, Hall
TWO councillors attempted to vote down the Western Downs Regional Council 2014/15 budget, concerned about the organisation’s growing debt.
Councillors Ray Jamieson and Charlene Hall went against their colleagues to vote against adopting the budget at a special budget meeting in Dalby on Friday, June 13 — Black Friday — because they felt the council was not doing enough to address its debt, which currently sits at about $70 million.
Cr Jamieson’s amendment to cut operational expenditure by $2 million was not supported.
“I guess I felt we needed to make some cuts in our operating expenditure to pay off our debts at an accelerated rate,” he said.
“We will be looking at another $20 million in debt coming in the 2015/16 budget – that was foremost in my mind.
“I’m a believer that the present day community should be living within its means and not burdening future generations with too much debt.”
However Cr Jamieson did say this year’s budget process was the best in the years since amalgamation and he was pleased with the council infrastructure spend.
Cr Hall said council could not sustain the way it currently did business.
“It may be the popular choice to say yes to shiny new infrastructure but we need to be responsible with where we source the funds to deliver the project,” she said.
Mayor Ray Brown described the budget as a “balanced and responsible”, one that predicted an overall operating surplus of $7 million, continuing the trend established last year.
Cr Brown said the budget was about sustainability, recovery and growth.
“It will enable council to continue its recovery from the most recent flooding events and deliver essential projects and services to our growing communities, ensuring the prosperity of our region into the future,” he said.
“Our towns are changing rapidly, with Miles, Wandoan and Chinchilla in particular facing unprecedented growth and land valuation increases as a result of economic activity associated with the energy sector,” Cr Brown said.
“One of the resulting challenges has been to fund infrastructure projects with minimal impact on traditional ratepayers.
“With the growth of the energy sector in our region comes significant risks to council in terms of providing infrastructure such as roads, water, sewerage and waste disposal facilities to meet the growth in demand.”