HELLO MONEYBAGS: Mayor poised to start spending in community
AFTER two years of tightening the belt, Southern Downs Regional Council has announced it is ready to loosen the purse strings and increase spending.
With $35 million in cash reserves and debt at a new low, mayor Tracy Dobie said there would be a new focus on projects.
"The last two years we have been very focused on the finances and saying 'No' to things that we would have liked to say 'Yes' to," the mayor said in a general meeting last Thursday.
Up to this point, the council's priority had been to remove itself from the Queensland Treasury Corporation watch list after it was flagged as being at risk of poor financial sustainability and banned from borrowing.
But with all "red" markers erased and cash in the bank, the council is ready to look at overdue projects such as roads, infrastructure and regional development.
Public toilet upgrades, new dog parks and an expanded mowing and slashing scheme were on a long list of projects Cr Dobie hoped to make headway on.
But the mayor said future spending would balance community desires with projects to attract new residents to the region.
"Council is about to start a plan called Southern Downs at 50,000 that aims to build our population."
Small villages would be a priority in the second half of the term and councillors ask residents to share their visions.
"What do you want in the next 20 years and how would you like to see your region growing?" the mayor asked.
Freestone farmer Ian Mauch said his village was in desperate need of road upgrades and a new two-lane bridge to improve traffic safety.
He thought smaller communities had been on the back burner.
"I guess the towns get the first priority for everything because more rates come in from the cities and country people seem to get left out all the time, in my book anyway."
But Cr Dobie said regional development was on its way, with the council to begin consultation on the Maryvale Urban Development Framework.
"Maryvale is a fast growing community but a lot still don't have water or sewerage or other infrastructure and it is mainly dirt roads.
"Does the community want Maryvale to become a town that is built up with street lights, kerbing and channelling, or do they want to remain a small village?" Cr Dobie asked.
But the councillors agreed for the need to proceed with careful spending.
"We must continue to keep our foot on the brake, we must still be very conservative and careful with what we do," the Mayor said.
Cr Dobie thanked the community for being understanding through a time of tight budgeting.