North Burnett Mayor Rachel Chambers presents Council’s tenth budget
The 10th annual budget is reflective of community needs while taking North Burnett Regional Council a direction consistent with the newly adopted 2017-22 Corporate Plan, focussing on the region’s roads, parks, gardens and recreational areas.
Mayor Chambers explained that it had been a busy six months, with the Corporate Plan being re-written, and as a result, changes to Council’s corporate structure were also being progressed. Five new themes for the region’s future have been identified which will clearly map out the work required for the next five years and will demonstrate to the community that Councillors are listening. The new corporate structure reflects the need to plan ahead and strengthens Council’s resolve to only be satisfied with great outcomes, not just great ideas.
“Last year’s budget was about starting to get our roads in order and I believe we have made some good progress in this area. Of course with the State’s 5th largest road network (out of 77 councils) we do have some challenges ahead of us. This year’s budget continues on with that good work but also increases the level of service in our parks, gardens, toilets and townscapes. We have listened to community and realise the importance of having pride in our town and communities and understand that money invested in this area will pay dividends particularly in community wellbeing and tourism,” Mayor Chambers said.
“To enable us to get real results in this area and bring our naturally beautiful region to life, we have invested a further $646,000 into parks, gardens and recreational areas. This amount will also allow us to increase our servicing of the regions public conveniences.”
“We still have a big issue to deal with – Since amalgamation council has been effectively spending more money than it is bringing in, with this year being no different. As I have stated before, each year there is an expectation to raise rates to meet this lack of revenue. As Councillors we spend numerous hours debating the ins and outs of each 0.1% increase, it is quite a balancing act to decide on a rate which will bring in income to support the rate payer’s expectations of service delivery yet also satisfy council’s financial sustainability obligations to the State. This year, we have decided on an average minimum general rate increase of 3.9%. In a $33 million budget (note: $6 million of FAGS has already been received in 16/17 financial year), when each percentage rate increase means an approximate gain of $89,000, raising rates is obviously only part of the answer.”
The North Burnett region relies heavily on external funding as there is a limited ability to generate its own source revenue. External grants and subsidies account for 47% of the total budget.
Reducing expenses has been a major aspect of previous budgets and although Council has strategically skilled up certain areas of council in this budget, reducing expenditure is still foremost in both thoughts and actions. Increased levels of compliance have been responsible for an increase in staffing budgets as has the newly accepted government funding model of being ‘shovel ready’ at all times. This in itself has proved challenging to a council of our size as we must provide the higher levels of government with extensive forecasting and designs of projects which may or may not eventuate.
Increasing levels of service in order to meet community expectations has also increased expenses in this budget. It is imperative that in the next 12 months, these expectations be aligned to acceptable service standards and future budgets.
“Of course in order to work our way towards a surplus position (to earn more than we spend), we also need to increase our revenue. Council will continue to lobby the State Government to award local road contracts to Council. It is vital that we regain this income, and this will become a prominent State election matter, as to resolve this matter alone would go a long way towards council achieving a sustainable financial position,” Mayor Rachel said.
Council’s planned capital expenditure will see the completion of some long awaited projects, with the Works for Queensland funding bringing an additional 25 liveability projects to the region.
Council has continued the rural roads program with a budget of just over $9 million and have invested $1 million in streets, kerbs and footpaths.
Following ex Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Council will invest $12,000 in a Disaster Management Community Dashboard which will allow Council to effectively communicate road conditions and closures to the community.
Eight bridges will undergo major refurbishment or repairs to a total of just over $5 million, and water and sewerage will receive $1.2 million to ensure safe and reliable water and waste delivery.
This budget is about getting the region in order, with the next twelve months seeing the introduction of region wide intervention levels for roads, parks and gardens which will standardise a high level of care and alleviate any concerns about fairness across the region. It will also further solidify councils future plans to maintain our almost $900 million dollars in assets.
“I would like to thank my fellow Councillors whose care and concern for the region is second to none, the Executive Leadership Team who have been willing to take a chance on some new ways of thinking, and Council staff for their support and hard work in shaping the future of the North Burnett,” Mayor Chambers said.
“We have a ways to go, but with strength, passion, determination and support from the North Burnett community we will get there.”
As in previous years, Council will maintain a tight fiscal position over the coming year with opportunities for review of the adopted budget quarterly. This will allow Council to review and contend with a continually changing and difficult financial environment.
All residents are encouraged to drop into any of Council’s Customer Contact Centres to view the budget, Operational Plan or Corporate Plan.