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Council delivers strategic budget under challenging circumstances
Long term strategic goals are the focus of Longreach Regional Council’s 2018/2019 Annual Budget, which was handed down today.
The budget will see Council spend $2.69 million on water projects, including network improvements in Ilfracombe and Isisford. Community facilities will receive $1.54 million in improvements, while the regions roads will benefit from $5 million in capital spending.
The Mayor, Cr Ed Warren, said Council had accomplished much in the past year and the budget was aimed at building on those achievements.
“We’ve done a lot of work on things like water security and renewable energy, and it’s important to continue that work going forward” he said. “Things are tightening up for us financially but we still need to look to the future.”
Independent advice sought by Council recommended a net rates increase of 3.6% which has been included in the budget. Council’s fees and charges will be restricted to a 2.5% increase.
“We need to support our operating budget, but we want to be mindful of the impact to ratepayers” Chief Executive Officer, Ian Bodill, explained. “We know some of our community struggle with their rates, and we’ll continue offering interest free payment plans to those experiencing hardship.”
Cr Warren said that despite the increase, finding money to balance the budget was becoming increasingly hard, with rates income from home and land owners only covering approximately 19% of Council’s budget in real terms.
“Not many residents realise that their rates only make up such a small part of our budget. We have to make extensive use of outside funding which is getting harder all the time.”
He said Council was determined to advance its strategic goals, such as renewable energy, water sustainability and an upcoming waste management strategy, despite facing a number of financial challenges.
“We’ve set a goal of increasing our population 52% by 2027 – to get there we need to broaden and build our economic base” he explained. “That means attracting investment.”
“We already know that we have access to the best conditions for solar power generation in Australia. Imagine if we could offer some of the cheapest energy in Australia – just imagine what that would mean for our economy.”
“Securing our water will allow for the diversification of our agricultural industries and will also mean we can offer a standard of livability to attract people to come and live in our towns.”
“Energy and water are the keys to our future.”
Mr Bodill added that Council was planning for its environmental future, too.
“We recently adopted a Climate Change Policy” he said. “And this budget contains the development of a new Waste Management Strategy that will address how we responsibly cater not only to our current population, but the population growth we’re aiming for.”
The Mayor said despite reporting a deficit this year, Council was committed to balancing its budget.
“We’ve been investing in our 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.
“Each budget is about striking that balance – working back toward a surplus without leaving our communities any worse off.”
Council’s ten year financial forecast indicates a return to surplus within approximately four years thanks to a service level review to be undertaken this year.
The full 2018/2019 Budget will eventually be made available to download at longreach.qld.gov.au/meetings-agendas-minutes.