June 9, 2021
Most ratepayers could get their rates notices and other Council correspondence by email in the next few years as the South Burnett Regional Council pursues the ideal of becoming “paperless”.
With an estimated 88 per cent of Australians now on the internet, the change is expected to deliver not only better service to most residents but also a big reduction in Council’s communication outlays.
At Wednesday’s Budget planning meeting, Councillors discussed the savings that could be made by eliminating common “paper costs” like postage, printing, stationery and hardcopy document storage from routine outgoings.
Finance general manager Susan Jarvis said she believed the substantial amounts Council currently spends on these items – against the almost negligible costs of distributing the same information electronically – indicated a switch to a paperless office could deliver big savings.
However, the process is likely to take some time to implement because of the background work needed to make the switch.
This would include collecting the email addresses of as many as 18,000 ratepayers and building associated systems to maintain them in a secure way.
Council’s enterprise resource planning software would also need to be programmed to process the change in the way documents are delivered.
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Councillors will debate increasing the Community Rescue and Evacuation Levy on rates notices from $5 to $6 a year when its full 2021-22 Budget has been prepared.
The levy is given to RACQ LifeFlight to recognise the helicopter rescue service LifeFlight provides to the region.
In last year’s Budget this levy rose from $4 to $5 a year, which allowed the Council to send LifeFlight a cheque for $84,000.
Councillors were told an increase to $6 would expand this annual contribution to almost $100,000.
Cr Gavin Jones said he was in favour of the rise, noting that LifeFlight made 375 trips to the South Burnett last year and each trip cost an estimated $15,000 (ie $5.6 million a year).
While he was aware there were many community fund-raisers run in the South Burnett to assist the helicopter service, he felt that even with Council’s contribution the region was still punching well below its weight.
However, Cr Danita Potter said while she agreed with Cr Jones’ sentiments, she was aware ratepayers were facing increasing costs on every front and was reluctant to introduce any further increase.
In the end, Councillors decided to defer a final decision on the levy until the full Budget has been prepared and all fee rises are known.
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Cr Kathy Duff will become the chairman of Murgon’s Anzac Day Commemorative Committee following the retirement of former chairman Ritchie O’Neill OAM after 24 years at the helm.
Mr O’Neill also served on Murgon Shire Council from 1997 to 2008.
At Wednesday’s Community Standing Committee meeting, Councillors were told the committee had recently written to the Council and asked them to nominate a “suitably qualified person” to fill the position, saying the role had traditionally been held by a person appointed by a Council.
Cr Duff said she was surprised by the request.
While Murgon was in her division and she was already on the committee, she thought it would be more appropriate if the role was filled by someone from the Murgon community – especially if they had served in the armed forces.
She had already been seeking someone to fulfil the chairman’s role, but had no luck to date.
Cr Duff said she would be happy to act as the group’s interim chair until a suitable replacement could be found.