A new way forward: Council adopts a long term ‘no-frills’ budget

A new way forward: Council adopts a long term ‘no-frills’ budget

23 June 2021

Today at its Ordinary Meeting, Southern Downs Regional Council addressed a challenging financial situation and adopted an honest, no-frills budget to tackle critical aging infrastructure and took decisive direction to focus on core business that would nurture a financially sustainable future for the region. 

Faced with the impacts of supporting a recovering economy from crippling drought, devastating bushfires and an unanticipated pandemic, the 2021/22 Budget strives to achieve effective tactical responses to current challenges and plans for the long term prosperity of the region. 

Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi acknowledged that some budget decisions would not be popular but preferred to focus on the future and how new financial direction would have long term benefits for the community, business sector and industry.

“This budget aims to contain costs, fix operating deficits in the key services of water and waste, and detail a plan to address ageing infrastructure. Considerable thought and time has been invested into delivering a budget that meets the region’s needs today and provides for the future,” Mayor Pennisi said.

“And, it is not all bad news. This budget supports community, cultural and environmental initiatives with over $1.1m and delivers one of the biggest capital works programs to date including $5.5m for flood repair.

“This budget also plans to put $30m in renewing sewerage infrastructure over the next five years, whilst wastewater charges will only see a modest increase of approximately 1.5%.

Water security remains firmly on Council’s radar and while the water access charge will remain at current levels a new two-tiered pricing model for domestic users will reward water conservation and quarantine businesses that rely heavily on water from a big increase in cost.

The general rates increase has been limited on average to 1.3% and a new rating category has been introduced for primary producers to smooth the impact of recent land valuations.

“In the rates space, we have acknowledged that recent land valuations by the Valuer General may translate to potentially large increases for some residents and to smooth the impact of these changes, a new rating category for Small Crops has been introduced, which will limit the rates increase in Small Crops and Agriculture to no more than 50%,” Mayor Pennisi said.
In recent times the waste industry has faced significant collapse of markets for recyclables as well as an increase in regulations and the Southern Downs has not been spared.  In line with Council’s recently adopted Waste Reduction and Recycling Plan 2021-24, waste will be recognised as a stand-alone business unit of Council in order to remain sustainable into the future.

“There is no silver bullet and we need to bring our water and sewerage infrastructure up to date. Council currently charges three different waste charges depending on location and one of the measures being implemented over the next two years is to bring together the entire region under one charge.”  Mayor Pennisi said.

The Southern Downs Regional Council has long considered developer holding costs to be an impediment to development of land in the region and in order to grow the local housing stock, service charges and rates on newly developed blocks have been further reduced.

Download the full media pack here (PDF 706.1KB)

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