DEBATE: Cr Bob Fredman and Mayor Mick Curran have debated the rate rise which has been passed onto the region.
DEBATE: Cr Bob Fredman and Mayor Mick Curran have debated the rate rise which has been passed onto the region. Renee Albrecht

Fredman: Rate rise twice as steep as region is being told

RATEPAYERS will be hit with a minimum 2.5 per cent rate rise in Gympie Regional Council's budget, but one councillor has questioned if the true increase was buried in PR spin.

Cr Bob Fredman questioned the overall rise in the region at today's meeting, with some property owners to be hit with rises of up to 10 per cent.

Cr Fredman was not involved in council meetings ahead of the budget, and said the region's average net rate rise was actually 4.3 per cent. He questioned why this was needed.

"I can't see any reason for the higher amount,” he said.

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The rate rise was not the only area of the budget he was concerned by, noting it included $1.3 million for the Rattler (with $600,000 for sleeper replacement and about $700,000 for depreciation), and that when it was created it was above the 1.9 per cent CPI rise.

"I'm very concerned about the ability for people to pay,” Cr Fredman said.

Gympie Regional Council CEO Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran at the budget meeting.
Gympie Regional Council CEO Bernard Smith and Mayor Mick Curran at the budget meeting. Phil Coquerand

Mayor Mick Curran defended the rise, saying forecasts showed that by the end of June, 2018, the CPI would likely have increased by 0.4-1 per cent.

"CPI could well be 2.9,” Cr Curran said.

While there were ways the council could have kept the rise down, they would have meant cutting budgeted works.

Councillors Mark McDonald, Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon, Mal Gear, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Daryl Dodt and Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch at the council's budget meeting.
Councillors Mark McDonald, Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon, Mal Gear, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Daryl Dodt and Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch at the council's budget meeting. Phil Coquerand

"If I could go back to rural roads, you'll see that this budget added an extra $500,000 for operational works,” Cr Curran said.

"If that $500,000 wasn't there I think we could take 1 per cent straight off the top of this rate rise.

"It could be sitting at 1.5 per cent.

"If we want to reduce the cost of rates... what services need to go?”

Cr Dan Stewart supported the budget, but agreed there was cause for concern.

"I've been concerned about the level of rate rise,” he said.

Councillors Mark McDonald, Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon, Mal Gear, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Daryl Dodt and Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch at the council's budget meeting.
Councillors Mark McDonald, Bob Fredman, Hilary Smerdon, Mal Gear, Dan Stewart, Glen Hartwig, Daryl Dodt and Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch at the council's budget meeting. Phil Coquerand

"Sometimes we need to take a bit more care... we seem to do more than we need to in some areas.”

The question of what was being put aside for the future was raised by Cr Glen Hartwig.

"We don't seem to be making a concerted effort to put anything (aside),” he said.

He said there was an "obligation on us to start putting that money back”.

Cr Mark McDonald raised concerns about a large rate rise awaiting residents in the future.

"There's going to be a council that comes in and says 'we've got no money' and hits the ratepayer,” Cr McDonald said.

However he said there were a number of great projects in the budget and was happy to support it overall.

The budget was adopted 7-2, with Crs Fredman and Hartwig voting against it.

Gympie Times


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