Our unique challenges
Mayor’s desk, 29 June 2017
It’s local government budget time. The time of year when we all release our annual budget, our focus areas and of course our rate rise. I say rate rise as I can’t ever envision a time they won’t go up. Everything goes up, electricity (don’t even get me started on this price hike), groceries, fuel, wages, up, up, up.
As much as I understand rate hate (It’s a bill, no one likes bills) there’s a few things which I’m not sure are widely known. Local government itself is created and maintained by State government legislation. State government is in charge of our boundaries (and subsequent amalgamations) and our powers are determined by State government legislation. As a local government we MUST collect rates and out of the 260 taxies levied in Australia, rates are the only tax collected by councils. Yep, rates are a TAX.
We often hear “I pay $LOTS of rates and I don’t get that same value spent on my road”. Well there is a reason for this – rates are otherwise known as general rates. They are for “services, facilities and activities that are supplied or undertaken for the benefit of the community in general (rather than a particular person)”. Basically it’s a shared care system. Roads do account for much of our budget but we also have pools to run, town halls and public toilets to maintain, parks and gardens to tend to and community events and groups to support. All this in an area which takes in Brisbane, Toowoomba and the Gold Coast with just under 7000 rate payers.
Rates account for 35% of councils income, the remaining 65% being made up of fees and charges and grants from State and Commonwealth Government (this accounts for the bulk of the remainder). As I have stated previously, after looking at our situation, the Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) 10 Year Financial Model has suggested council raise rates by 5% every year for the next ten years. Council is working hard to achieve rates under this percentage as we are well aware of our community’s ability/inability to pay. We also believe our region should be recognized for its particular amalgamated circumstances (low rate base, vast geographic area, lack of regional centre, no ability to increase own source revenue) and consideration given to these circumstances. These issues were discussed on Friday at the State Parliamentary hearing where we illustrated our unique challenges as a region as compared to other local government areas in the hope that we won’t be continually judged by the same parameters as other councils and instead we are supported by the State and Commonwealth to run a sustainable region. Council’s budget, along with the focus areas and rate percentage will be released next Wednesday, 5 July at the Special Budget Meeting to be held in Monto.