‘DIFFICULT’ BUDGET APPROVED
Airport the big ticket in new budget
THERE is no residential rates increase in the Whitsunday region for the second consecutive year, but the council’s commitment to upgrading its airport will add $30 million to its debt.
The Whitsunday Regional Council Budget 2017/18 unveiled on Friday included $32 million for Bowen, incorporating money for a new sewerage treatment plant, $2.5 million to help fix up Shute Harbour and more than $1.3 million for a Proserpine water park.
Cannonvale Beach has been allocated $200,000 towards its upgrade which will also involve the re-introduction of a stinger net.
As the council unanimously approved the budget, Mayor Andrew Willcox declared it a “difficult” one in the wake of ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie.
“Circumstances have made it essential that this budget will be a conservative one,” he said at the Bowen council chambers on Friday.
The Whitsunday Coast Airport was the big-ticket item in the budget that featured a total of
$82.6 million in capital works projects.
The $39.8 terminal and runway upgrade accounts for almost half of the capital works budget.
Council is relying on securing a $25 million lowinterest loan from the Queensland Treasury Corporation, and has $15 million from a recent State Government grant.
Cr Willcox said no money had been allocated to the Airlie Beach Lagoon as its repair bill of almost $1 million had been taken from the 2016/17 budget.
Due to the impending airport loan, the council’s debt will rise significantly – from just over $50 million to more than $80 million in 2017/18 before rising again in 2018/19.
Cr Willcox said the airport would reap long-term benefits, bringing an extra 240,000 passengers to the Whitsundays last year.
“We have to borrow to get our airport upgraded,” Cr Willcox said.
There will be a 0% increase in the total rate burden in the residential rating categories.
There will, however, be a 2% increase in rates other than residential.
A $70 charge will be added to rates to accommodate the historic introduction of kerbside recycling.
The budget also brings a reduction in water utilities charges for small businesses.
TAKING FLIGHT: Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt and Whitsunday Mayor Andrew Willcox at the recent $15 million funding announcement at the Whitsunday Coast Airport.