All ratepay­ers to be hit with $140 levy and a rate rise

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

IT WAS a di­vided Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil that handed down its 2013-14 bud­get in Bowen yes­ter­day.

The bud­get, in­clud­ing an aver­age rate rise of about $126, a ma­jor projects levy of $140 and in­creases in the util­ity charges in­clud­ing wa­ter, sewage and garbage col­lec­tion, was a bit­ter pill for mayor Jennifer Whit­ney and her six coun­cil­lors to swal­low.

While coun­cil­lors Jan Clif­ford, Kevin Collins and John Collins voted with the mayor to bring down what was de­scribed as a “tough bud­get”, coun­cil­lors An­drew Will­cox, Dave Clark and Peter Ra­m­age voted against it, res­ur­rect­ing what Cr Kevin Collins called the “north/south di­vide”.

In one of sev­eral pas­sion­ate speeches, Cr Kevin Collins said in­creas­ing rates to pay for too many am­bi­tious projects, com­mit­ted to in the pre­vi­ous term of Coun­cil, was hard for a new­comer to ac­cept.

“I came to Coun­cil hop­ing to do some nice things for peo­ple and in­stead I’ve got to hide my head when I walk home to­day, think­ing what have I just voted for,” he said.

How­ever, Cr Collins ac­cepted he also had to be “one of the adults in the room and say we can’t use the credit card any­more”.

Cr An­drew Will­cox ar­gued des­per­ately that there must be an­other way to re­cover Coun­cil’s debt. Like­wise, Cr Dave Clark begged for Coun­cil to rene­go­ti­ate the terms of its loan agree­ment with the Queens­land Trea­sury Cor­po­ra­tion (QTC).

Cr Whit­ney con­ceded that what her coun­cil­lors were be­ing asked to vote on was “dev­as­tat­ing” but she told them, “you ei­ther want to be a coun­cil­lor or you don’t” and she urged them to “be a part of the so­lu­tion”.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Coun­cil’s CEO Scott Wa­ters ad­dressed the wait­ing me­dia, ex­plain­ing that Coun­cil be­lieved its $140 levy was the fairest way of shar­ing the bur­den. Mr Wa­ters said rate rises would be un­likely to re­cede but a levy could be re­moved once the debt was re­duced.

Cr Whit­ney said where pos- sible, Coun­cil had re­tained rates as­sis­tance op­tions and would be able to of­fer pen­sion­ers a re­mis­sion on gen­eral rates of up to $300.

A five per cent dis­count for pay­ment of rates within 30 days now ap­plies. It has been re­duced from a 10 per cent dis­count. Cr Whit­ney said the new two-part tar­iff for wa­ter charges was ex­pected to be a fairer sys­tem across the re­gion on the ba­sis that peo­ple would pay only for the wa­ter they con­sumed.

Rates no­tices will be sent out in early Au­gust. More in­for­ma­tion is avail­able on Coun­cil’s web­site www.whit­sun­dayrc.qld.gov.au.

UN­DER FIRE: Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Matthew McGoldrick was called upon to an­swer ques­tions about dis­crep­an­cies in fig­ures for em­ployee on-costs. He is pic­tured at yes­ter­day’s meet­ing with Coun­cil’s di­rec­tor of cor­po­rate ser­vices Gra­ham Jarvis and di­rec­tor of plan­ning and com­mu­nity Dan Sta­ley.

BIT­TER PILL: Cr Kevin Collins de­liv­ered a pas­sion­ate speech about what he called “a move to re­ject the bud­get” by some other coun­cil­lors.

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