Council fights to save funding
TOWNSVILLE CITY Council will lobby the Federal Government to scrap a policy that would see the city miss out on $ 877,000 in funding over the next three years.
The ramifications could be felt throughout the community with a drop in council services or rise in rates inevitable as council taps into other revenue streams to fill the void left by the freeze in Financial Assistance Grants.
Mayor Jenny Hill said the impact was being felt by councils nationwide and backed the Governance and Finance Committee’s recommendation to express the council’s concern to Herbert MP Ewen Jones. The federally funded grants are given to local governments each year and invested in essential community infrastructure and services.
The Federal Government decided last year to freeze Financial Assistance Grants at their current rate and not to index them until the end of the 2016/ 17 financial year. This means the amount funded will remain the same and will not rise in accordance with inflation, lowering the purchasing power of the funds, which will result in a loss to the council of $ 877,000 over three years. “What it means is we would have to put the rates up or else cut services or find efficiencies,” Cr Hill said.
“If we had that money indexed, there could have been another half a per cent saved in rates. We’re looking at efficiencies and with amalgamation there are still efficiencies that we can make but at some point, you can’t make any more.”
Ms Hill said if the indexed funding was made available the council “could have possibly passed on lower rates or looked to fund other areas of expenditure”.
The 2015/ 16 budget handed down a 1.45 per cent rate rise.
Mr Jones, who sits on the Rural and Regional Liberals Committee, said he had already raised the issue with Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss.
“I understand there are savings being made but I would like to see the freeze undone in the third and fourth years,” Mr Jones said.
“Warren said he’d look at it and he’s in a regional seat and is a former mayor with a local government background, so he’s got a soft spot for it but there has been no official reply yet.”
Mr Jones said the council was “not really telling the full story” and had benefited greatly from the extra funding brought forward in 2014/ 15 under the Roads to Recovery program.