Community & Business

19 June, 2024

Millions of dollars and 29 minutes

Council budget discussion

By Elizabeth Voneiff

Councillors spent 29 minutes speaking to the draft budget before releasing it for public consultation last week. Mayor Hamilton spoke to the short time frame the new council has had to organise the 2024/25 financial goalposts. “There has been a shortened window,” she conceded, for council to contribute to or influence this budget. Nevertheless, the Mayor is happy that there has been some “good representation” from the community.

The overhaul in rates including types of rates and costs to ratepayers were clearly on the mind of everyone in chambers. Apparently, this year has been the first comprehensive look at rates since 2012.

It looks as if only about 25 percent of homeowners will have any rate increase and those that will get a bigger bill it will be less than CPI.

Cr McDonald, heard from a laptop in chambers, announced that she is happy to see an increased bottom line for funding community safety but questions some of the dollar figures for road improvements.

“Is this seriously enough?” she asked, pointing out that road conditions are the biggest complaint  category for most councillors.

“Madam Mayor, I do not endorse this budget, but I do endorse the budget going out for community consultation and I look forward to the feedback and the variety of views that we receive as a council.”

Cr Wantling congratulated the work of officers and staff and agreed that he is disinclined to endorse the budget but will wait for community feedback.

Cr Richters is keen for public comment but didn’t like the idea of endorsing the budget. He approves of the new rates system and took a few minutes clarifying the particulars for any of the public watching the livestream.

“Clearly, some people will be happy and others will be furious,” Cr Richters said. The new councillor lamented some “missed opportunities” in the new budget and would have appreciated more “revenue generating activities” as part of the council program.

“All we are doing is kicking the can down the road,” Cr Richters commented, adding that council missed the chance to include rebates in planning and development fees which would have sped up affordable housing in the Southern Downs.

Furthermore, Cr Richters thought that council “must be mindful of the immediate needs of the community”.

Councillors were told that there isn’t enough time to have face-to-face budget consultations but Cr Richters balked at this saying he is planning some events that will allow the public to meet with him and do just that. One is on June 26 in Warwick Town Hall at 5:30pm and organised a similar event in Stanthorpe, yesterday, June 19.

“It has been a challenging budget," he said.

Cr Harslett says that her first council budget “was always going to be a daunting task” and admits that she has “a much better understanding of what we are dealing with here”.

She hopes that future budgets will have more transparency around funding community groups and she would like to explore ways in which council can assist groups outside of writing a cheque.

“I do endorse this budget,” Cr Harslett said.

Cr Pidgeon spent a few moments explaining the rate changes in the agricultural sector and explaining funds for the saleyards upgrade. There is $1.2 million for saleyards, which includes stage three of the sheep yards, shade and compliance issues. The balance will go towards upgrading the sheep administration block with air conditioning. Stage four is funded including upgrading the car park.

“It’s wonderful to see improvements to agriculture throughout the region,” she said.

After some more subdued discussion the Mayor closed the meeting at 9:29am.


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