July 14, 2021
General rates across most South Burnett property categories will rise by 1 per cent this year after the South Burnett Regional Council handed down its 2021-22 Budget on Wednesday morning.
But in a surprise move, landholders whose properties are classed as “rural” will face a zero per cent increase after a last-minute motion by Cr Scott Henschen.
However, most rural landholders will still face the 2.18 per cent rise due to the third year of staggered increases introduced in 2019 after property valuations rose.
Other urban service charges – for water connection, water usage, sewerage, waste collection and levies – will increase marginally for all ratepayers.
Most will find these service costs rise by about $52 a year.
As he had promised, Mayor Brett Otto moved a motion calling on Council to hand down a zero per cent rate increase across all property rating categories.
But when this was put to a vote, it was defeated 4-3, with Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones, Cr Roz Frohloff, Cr Danita Potter and Cr Kirstie Schumacher opposing the move.
After this, Cr Henschen moved to exempt rural properties from any general rate increase.
This was carried 6-1, with Mayor Otto voting against the motion on the basis that it included the 1 per cent rise, which he opposed.
All other parts of the Budget were carried as proposed, with the exception of increased second pedestal charges which will only be charged to hospitals and schools this year.
Councillors voted to defer introducing increases for flat owners and commercial accommodation operators for 12 months until the effects of any change could be could be fully examined.
This year’s rate rise is the second-lowest since the Council was formed in 2008, and follows last year’s zero per cent rate rise.
Increases in service charges are also among the lowest since amalgamation.
Council will be running a deficit of $3.3 million this year – $1.2 million lower than originally forecast.
After the meeting, Mayor Brett Otto said the deficit reduction had come about through three months of intensive Budget workshops.
“We found a number of areas where we could save money without impacting services, and when we found them we took them,” Mayor Otto said.
However, he added there were still a number of other areas of Council operations that would be reviewed during the coming year.
Mayor Otto said he was hopeful enough extra savings could be found to return the Budget to a small surplus by 2022-23.
CEO Mark Pitt – who interrupted his annual leave to guide the Budget meeting on Wednesday – confirmed cost-saving measures had been implemented across all Council departments.
He said the cost reductions were real and had not come about through “creative accounting”.
However, the cuts would have little to no effect on Council’s operations or capital works program.
Councillors also voted their thanks to staff for the work they had put into helping frame the Budget, which involved examining multiple scenarios and projecting outcomes as long as 10 years into the future.
[UPDATED with correction. The original report stated that Cr Henschen’s motion was carried unanimously. The vote was actually 6-1.]