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Community, Water and Road Infrastructure projects are the big winners in Longreach Regional Council’s 2017/2018 Budget, which was handed down last week.

Despite challenging conditions, Council said its 2017/2018 Budget contains important funding for capital projects, with capital expenditure topping $14.5 million.

Roads remain one of the biggest items with $5.6 million allocated in the budget. This includes the extra responsibilities Council has taken on under its new Grids & Gates policy – following nine years of negotiation with stakeholders.

The budget delivers $2.6 million in water projects, including a new bore for Ilfracombe and numerous operational upgrades. Some $450,000 in sewerage upgrades has also been funded.
Community infrastructure, such as museums, parks, gardens and public facilities will benefit from $1.3 million in funding. The budget also includes a significant increase in funding for Council coordinated events.

Longreach Regional Council Mayor, Cr Ed Warren, said Council had accomplished a lot for the community in its first year and the budget was aimed at building on those achievements.

“We’ve tried to put forward programs that will stimulate our economy. Our Economic Development Strategy was adopted last year – and its implementation is being actively resourced in this budget.

“We’ve achieved positive outcomes for the Longreach Saleyards and other community assets. We’ve delivered some big ticket items such as our Longreach Wild Dog Exclusion Fence Scheme – which drew widespread praise for its innovative funding model.

“I’m proud of our achievements so far and I think people recognise the work we’re doing.”

He said despite reporting a deficit, Council was committed to balancing its budget, but didn’t want to impact services.

“We’ve been proactively investing in the community and that’s reflected in our budget position” he explained. “But we also need to make sure we don’t get too far behind.”

“This budget is all about striking that balance – working back toward a surplus without leaving our communities any worse off.”

Council says its decision to cap rate increases at 5% was based on independent advice.

“We need to support our operating budget, but we want to be mindful of the impact to ratepayers” Director of Corporate Services, Paul Hockings, explained. “So we sought some independent advice to guide Councillors in their decision.”

“We know that some of our community struggle with their rates, so we’ll continue offering interest free payment plans to those experiencing hardship.”

The Mayor said despite the change, Council’s rates, fees and charges make up only 27.5% of its operating revenue.

“Not many residents realise that their contributions only make up such a small part of our budget. We have to make extensive use of funding which can make things challenging.”

He said Council was grateful for the support of the Queensland Government.

“The ‘Works 4 Queensland’ program in particular is worth $2.4 million to our community and has been extremely helpful. It’s let us do things we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to do.”

Mr Hockings said despite challenging circumstances, long term forecasts indicated a return to surplus.

“Based on current projections we expect to achieve a surplus within about five years.”