Next door's rates better

SOUTHERN Downs residents are once again looking with envy at their neighbours in Toowoomba after its council handed down an 8.5 per cent average rate increase compared to our 9.7 per cent slugging.

Toowoomba’s 2010-11 budget, worth $550 million, was approved this week despite Cr Bill Cahill’s lone vote against it.

The spikes and troughs seen locally are mirrored in Toowoomba as it also tries to align its rates post-amalgamation but initial figures suggest increases in its district townships are minimal compared to some of the soaring rates in the Southern Downs.

One big similarity between the two regional councils is the bitterness from its district towns about the State Government’s forced amalgamation.

Sitting right on the periphery, Clifton has all but accepted its fate as part of the Toowoomba melting pot.

However, for former Clifton Shire councillor Gerard O’Leary, budget time is a staunch reminder of why the town’s amalgamation with Toowoomba was a terrible mistake.

He told the Daily News he was concerned to hear some areas would be stung with 12 per cent increases.

“It’s too much,” Mr O’Leary said.

“People will struggle. People have been struggling in the last 12 months already since Clifton was hit with extra water rates.

“Clifton’s water supply was all paid for prior to amalgamation but now the area shares the cost of Toowoomba’s water.”

Mr O’Leary’s concerns will be slightly eased with the announcement there will be no increase made in water charges and eligible pensioners will receive a $30 rebate on water access charges. However, he is still convinced amalgamation isn’t in the best interests of Clifton.

Mayor Peter Taylor said the budget “reinforces council’s commitment to long-term financial security for the region”.

Some of its big ticket items include a $10 million upgrade to the Toowoomba aerodrome and $58 million on sewerage and wastewater projects.

Sporting facilities in the region will receive a whopping $6 million, including $1.43 million towards the construction of a $2.43 million criterion track.

The status quo in the water charges will be counteracted by an increase in council’s environmental levy, which will leap from $10 to $30.

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