by Dafyd Martindale
The South Burnett Regional Council handed down its 2017-18 Budget on Monday.
As it always does, the Budget included a rate rise – this year, 2.5 per cent – and as usual, whingeing started in some quarters not long afterwards.
But leaving aside the point this is the second lowest rate rise since the 2008 amalgamations and the fourth in a row to deliver a result at (or very close to) CPI, this Budget appears to me to be well put together.
A whopping 41.9 per cent of it is going into our region’s roads, and a further 11.2 per cent is going to maintain our region’s parks and reserves.
Operating our libraries, halls and swimming pools will chew up a further 10 per cent; keeping our public buildings in good order 6.3 per cent; and looking after our cemeteries and public conveniences 3.3 per cent.
Community groups will get supported with a 2.2 per cent slice, while rural services such as saleyards and pest management will get 1.9 per cent.
What some might consider “fat” – Council administration and the costs of running services such as depots, environmental health, plumbing, planning, building, economic development, IT&T, tourism, finance and human resources to ensure everything else is carried out – consumes the balance (23.2 per cent).
And this year the Council will be doing that with 10 to 13 less staff aboard.
This is hardly a Budget that throws money around like a man with 10 hands!
Instead, it is a prudent and sober Budget that aims to tackle today’s problems today, but also sets a path for bigger projects in the future.
For example, while the Council will spend next to nothing on Kingaroy’s CBD upgrade this year, it has announced plans to start setting aside money over the next two Budgets to pay for one around 2020 that it hopes will be half-funded by the State or Federal Government.
The Council also plans to start setting other money aside to pay for a pipeline that will one day connect Nanango to Kingaroy’s water supply – again, with government contributions – to provide water security to one of our region’s major towns.
And it is looking at a future replacement for Murgon’s water treatment plant to do the same there.
In between, major projects that attracted a lot of criticism when they were first announced – such as Nanango’s streetscape, Blackbutt’s supermarket and drainage problems, the Kingaroy Waste Water Treatment Plant and the South Burnett Rail Trail – have all been delivered (or are just about to be) and are all proving to be very beneficial for our region.
This is a Budget that continues the prudent, sensible and sober approach our Council has taken since it was formed.
It’s an approach that has lifted the South Burnett from a “weak” financial rating when it sprang into existence to the “moderate” status it enjoys today.
It’s one that has seen a lot of improvements to our formerly ageing infrastructure in a relatively short period of time.
And it’s one that has maintained all the services and amenities our Council inherited, while other Councils chose a slash and burn approach that has left many of their own towns mourning facilities they once enjoyed, now long gone.
We might not like the average 2.5 per cent more per year we have to pay for this – particularly if our income hasn’t risen by the same (or more) in the past 12 months.
But I’m sure we’d all like it a lot less – and pretty quickly, too – if things started to fall to pieces.
In a world where praise seems to be an increasingly scarce resource, I think the South Burnett’s council deserves praise for making sure they don’t.