June 26, 2019
Three Gympie councillors – all representing rural divisions – voted against Council’s 2019-20 Budget on Wednesday, but it was adopted unchanged anyway.
Rural ratepayers in the GRC region will be hit with an average 8 per cent rate rise again this year, thanks to soaring property valuations.
And some rural ratepayers could expect rises as high as 20 per cent.
Non-rural ratepayers will face an average 1.8 per cent rise, lower than the 2 per cent the Council forecast a few months ago, with roughly half the region’s population paying less than $1 a week extra.
Three of the region’s nine Councillors – rural representatives Cr Glen Hartwig (Div 2), Cr Hilary Smerdon (Div 6) and Cr Bob Fredman (Div 8) – voted against GRC’s latest Budget.
The Budget forecasts a $5 million operational deficit, with a return to surplus unlikely before 2024-25.
CEO Bernard Smith said the deficit was caused by rising costs, including staff wages and depreciation costs.
He said a sharp focus on Council costs and efficiencies was necessary over the coming two to three years to return the Budget to surplus.
The $135.8 million Budget includes $31.8 million on capital works.
Roads and waste collection will receive $21 million each; $5 million will be spent on the region’s parks; and $3.7 million on libraries and cultural events.
The roads allocation will include $8 million for maintenance, a $2.9 million bridge program and $2 million for resurfacing.
Council will also allocate a further $1 million towards the Mary Valley Rattler project, which has already consumed $17.6 million in GRC and State Government funding.
Overall, Council’s revenue from rates and charges is expected to rise by 6 per cent in 2019-20, an increase Cr Fredman told media was “obscene” and “price-gouging”.
Cr Hartwig blamed the rise on Councillors ignoring advice from GRC staff to rein in spending.
“This Budget is the culmination of three years overspending on projects that have taken Council away from the core business that supports the local business and economic drivers of the region,” Cr Hartwig told local media.
He warned that GRC was dipping into its reserves to fund day-to-day operations, and said Council’s cupboard would be bare in a few years if this trend continued.
However, Gympie Mayor Mick Curran defended the Budget.
“This Budget and the decisions we make is not about being popular,” he said.
“It’s about making the right decision for our community and our future.”