Budget may deliver rise in rates

IF neighbouring council budgets are anything to go by, Southern Downs residents could face anything from a five to seven per cent average increase in general rates.

Southern Downs Regional Council will this morning announce the budget for 2010-2011 and rate increases are predicted across the board with a fiery meeting expected.

Ratepayers in the Scenic Rim were slapped with a 6.5 per cent average general rates increase as well as a 6.5 per cent increase on fees and charges.

Their refuge collection charges soared up 16 per cent.

The recently amalgamated Goondiwindi Regional Council decided ratepayers would fork out an extra 5.5 per cent following a rating review similar to that of the Southern Downs.

Mayor Graeme Scheu said the region would see a more equitable rates system across the region.

“The ever-increasing costs council is experiencing, together with the impacts of the Global Financial Crisis, state and federal budgets mean we have to increase the rates to maintain our existing service levels,” he told the Daily News.

Local councils have been criticised for raising rates well above the Consumer Price Index, which is currently 2.9 per cent.

There are also significant fears in the business community that they will bear the brunt of the tough budget through rates and other charges.

Speaking on the eve of the council's budget announcement, Deputy Mayor Peter Blundell echoed his colleagues' sentiments that it was a tough process trying to melt the former shires' rating systems into one differential system.

He said the Queensland Treasury Corporation's assessment of the region also impacted on the council's decision-making.

“That report assessed the region's financial situation and it was one motivational factor in our budget.

“But there are also a number of other external factors such as the State Government removing funding schemes and devolving things, like registration of cats, which may sound insignificant but is actually very important.”

Cr Blundell explained that the devolution of power to local government meant they were responsible for ensuring they had adequate staff to cover new regulations which, at times, was an added cost to council.

He said council was given the ability to rate the community to a higher level than before and that service levels would ultimately dictate the rates.

He stressed the need for council to improve its performance saying, “the other thing is efficiency of the organisation, that's going to be something that needs a lot of concentration and attention from this moment forward.”

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