Average 4.63% rate rise in council budget
BUNDABERG Mayor Mal Forman believes council has "delivered a budget for the times".
"Capping the average rate increase to just 4.63% represents the second lowest increase Council has delivered since amalgamation in March 2008.
"There is a recognition by all Councillors that the capacity of ratepayers to absorb larger increases is becoming more difficult.
"I believe Council has produced a budget that will allow us to focus on positive developments while maintaining services and continuing to provide a raft of social and cultural programs that contribute to the lifestyle of this region.
"We have adopted a capital program of $93 million that includes $46 million for roads, $37 million for sewerage infrastructure and $6 million for water infrastructure.
"The conclusion in December last year of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) funding due to the conclusion to flood repair work has realigned our budget to pre flood levels.
"A cornerstone project on which the future of the Bundaberg region's economic growth and stability will rely is the construction of the $93 million Rubyanna Wastewater Treatment Plant.
"A total of $37 million has been committed by Council this year to progress this project towards its scheduled completion date in December 2017," Cr Forman said.
"Funding assistance options through the State and Federal Government in relation to the proposed multiuse facility at the old Showgrounds and offsetting ratepayer costs for the Rubyanna project have not been forthcoming and this has forced Council to rethink its financial strategies in this area.
"Sewerage costs have been the single biggest increase in the budget rising $44 per year. Waste collection and water access charges have attracted modest increases with waste rising just an additional 35 cents per week and water connections up 23 cents per week.
Other key initiatives in the budget include an investment of $4.5 million on information technology (IT) over two budgets including $2 million this year and $2.5 million last year.
"A lot of our technology has been in place since amalgamation in 2008 and the upgrade is long overdue. It will assist Council in maintaining its required record keeping in a more efficient manner and also equip our officers in the field with appropriate mobile devices," Cr Forman said.
"With the National Broadband Network also being rolled out across the region it is incumbent on Council to maximise these digital opportunities.
"Councillors have worked hard to ensure priority was the key factor in selecting projects to be funded through the 2015/16 budget.
"Council continues, through efficiencies, to do more with less. That continues to be our aim and that is what we will continue to achieve," Cr Forman said.