RATES TO RISE
Emotions running high as Council prepares to hand down budget
WHITSUNDAY ratepayers can expect to pay significantly more in rates and charges after Whitsunday Regional Council hands down its annual budget next week.
Exactly how much individuals from around the region will pay will depend on whether Council’s proposed $140 major projects levy is approved.
If this is the case, ratepayers will pay the levy plus a small rate rise. If the levy is not passed, rate rises are expected to be significant to make up the shortfall.
Pre-budget issues and the state of Council’s finances were the subject of emotionally charged addresses by CEO Scott Waters and Mayor Jennifer Whitney at yesterday’s ordinary Council meeting in Proserpine where the Commercial-in-Confidence Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) report was publicly released.
Mr Waters broke down in tears at the boardroom table and Cr Whitney said the pressure had aged her by 10 years.
Cr Whitney said ministerial approval was required to release the QTC report.
“And it’s not something we really wanted to do, but the thing is, there is speculation out there in the community by individuals... and we need to let them know what the issues were,” she said.
Mr Waters said he was initially “passionate” about not releasing the report because of the ramifications for the previous term of Council and particularly members of staff.
“[The report] hasn’t named names, but it’s named positions. It’s a small town and we all know who those people are,” he said.
Mr Waters said certain “financial wizards” had been putting their take on Council’s position without having all of the relevant information to hand.
He said it was only six weeks after the handing down of the 2012-13 budget that Council found it was $20million short to finish the financial year – a figure that blew out to $25million after a subsequent internal audit.
“People – staff – were going to lose their jobs. The pressure has been absolutely huge,” he said as he fought back the tears.
Cr Whitney took over, saying the situation had been traumatic, trying and frustrating and while the easiest option would have been to hand over to an administrator, the region would not have been able to grow.
She said the budget was going to be “a difficult time for us” with no option other than to knuckle down and repay the multi-million dollar emergent funding from State Government, as soon as possible.
The 2013-14 budget is expected to be handed down on Wednesday, July 17. Ratepayers can expect to receive their rate notices in early August. A full copy of the QTC report is available for viewing on the Whitsunday Times website.
UNDER PRESSURE: Council's CEO Scott Waters and mayor Jennifer Whitney made emotional speeches about the state of Council's finances at yesterday's Council meeting.