April 16, 2018
The South Burnett Regional Council has announced plans to make even deeper cuts to community funding in a bid to find more money for road maintenance.
Last April the Council brought in changes to its Community Grants programs and hall hire rebates which saw it begin tighten its purse strings towards volunteer groups.
On Monday, Mayor Keith Campbell released a statement saying Council was now considering charging community groups for water, sewerage and garbage collection in its 2018-19 Budget.
The move is expected to raise $61,948 in 2018-19, and a further $55,537 in 2019-20; ie. a total of $117,285.
southburnett.com.au understands the move is likely to double the annual charges some community groups currently pay, and there are fears this could even cause some to fold.
Affected groups are expected to receive a letter from Council in the next few weeks detailing the changes and what it will cost them.
Groups to be affected include organisations such sporting clubs and not-for profit organisations such as the QCWA.
Mayor Campbell said the cuts had been forced on Council after a recent study indicated at least $10 million would need to be spent on the region’s unsealed roads over the next two years to bring them up to scratch.
Extra money would also need to be spent on the region’s sealed road network to carry out routine maintenance.
The Mayor said the study meant the Council had to look for extra savings and efficiencies in other parts of its operations.
“A number of changes to reduce expenditure have been made in recent years, including a reduction of 15 staff positions in the past nine months,” Mayor Campbell said.
“This will provide savings of approximately $1 million in the upcoming Budget.
“But the reality is that we need to find further savings if we’re going to improve the current level of service provided to our road network.”
The Council currently spends about 47 per cent of its annual budget on road maintenance.
Mayor Campbell said the Council already provided about $600,000 a year in funding support to community organisations through concessions on rates and charges ($323,400), its Community Grants Program ($241,500) and hall hire fee remissions ($50,000).
“Over the past year Council has reviewed and made changes to this community support funding except in the area of concessions on rates and charges,” Mayor Campbell said.
“Councillors now consider this practice needs to be reviewed, and groups make a contribution towards costs that are currently being paid for by the rest of the ratepayers – for example water, waste water and waste collection.
“In most cases, groups will still receive a remission on their General Rate, Environmental Levy, Waste Management Levy, Community Rescue Levy, Road Levy and State Fire Levy,” the Mayor said.
“Council’s approach will be to try to recover a portion of the costs for water, sewerage and waste collection.”
Assets sales and service closures are two other areas the Council is also considering.
“Any savings emerging from this evaluation would improve our financial position and our ability to provide more funds to roadworks,” the Mayor said.
“Councillors are responsible for managing Council’s business in a responsible, fair and equitable manner, and supporting community organisations at the current level is commendable if you can afford it.
“However, when it’s technically ‘giving away’ ratepayers money at the expense of denying them roads they would be happy to live with, we have a dilemma.
“Once Council has developed a funding model to clear its backlog, we then need to ensure there is enough money in future budgets to properly maintain and replace roads and other assets on an ongoing basis.
“Our region’s road problems can only be fixed by providing more money in the Budget to get our assets to an appropriate level, then keep them there.”