Ratepayers fear regional budget
WITH taxes, charges, costs and prices all heading skywards, leaving many people’s incomes behind, Gympie Region ratepayers are bracing themselves for the worst in tomorrow’s Gympie Regional Council budget.
Mayor Ron Dyne yesterday would not be drawn on whether the budget would include increases in council rates and charges.
But since council budgets almost always include such increases, few Gympie Region property owners were confident yesterday that they would escape unscathed.
An increase would also be in character with most council budgets announced so far this year across Queensland, with almost all of them affected by council amalgamations and big cost pressures, especially in areas like earthmoving and road building.
One amalgamated coastal council last week announced increases which will hit ratepayers with an average increase of nearly $300 a year, prompting the local newspaper to say their Mayor and his deputy would be about as popular as Kevin Rudd in the ALP Caucus room last week.
Cr Dyne yesterday said the Gympie Regional Council budget had been “difficult to frame".
“Councillors and staff have put a lot of effort into achieving a budget that continues to progress the Gympie Regional Council area,” the Mayor said yesterday.
As Brisbane and Sunshine Coast Region ratepayers get used to the idea of paying hundreds of dollars more a year for water, Gympie residents and business operators had nothing to go on yesterday but the experience of rates almost always increasing, at least by the rate of inflation.
However, with a mining boom continuing to fuel the nation’s economy, creating greatly increased demand for the kind of skilled labor and machinery used by councils to maintain and develop much-needed road and service infrastructure, the construction industry index has for years been moving way ahead of the consumer price index, on which inflation figures are usually based.
In an ominous indication about this year’s budget, Cr Dyne warned last year that rates needed to strike a realistic figure between the CPI (then 5 per cent) and the construction index (15 per cent).
“If we don’t keep above CPI we are going backwards,” he said.
The budget which followed a few weeks later included a general rates increase of nearly 6 per cent, but also included increases in charges which meant many ratepayers were paying up to 20 per cent more.
And with many people saying they cannot afford that again, council also has had to take note of the fact that many could not afford it last time.
The budget announcement included the information that Gympie property owners owed council $3.378 million in unpaid rates.
Commenting on a Corporate Governance and Finance Committee report a few weeks later, council’s director of Financial Services, Yvonne Oliver, said the amount owed was almost $1 million more than the previous year.
This had also been associated with a drop in council’s interest income on investments, with a loss of about $2 million a year in that area alone, she told council. The budget will also carry an additional burden for people in former shire areas where rates had been lower than Cooloola’s, prior to amalgamation. The process of equalisation is continuing.