Ratepayers brace for tough budget

BUNDABERG ratepayers are bracing for some bad news tomorrow when the Bundaberg Regional Council hands down its annual budget.

With the council still struggling with the costs of the amalgamation and the effects of the global financial crisis, tough rates rises and increases in service charges are on the menu.

“These have been difficult years,” Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch said yesterday.

Cr Pyefinch said staff and councillors had been working for six months to put together the budget she will hand down tomorrow.

She said matching the community's expectations of services and facilities with the funds available to the council was always going to be hard.

Cr Pyefinch would not be drawn on specifics, but she said at this stage the council knew it was going to have to spend $100 million on sewerage infrastructure in the next five years.

“That's an awful lot of money to have to come up with,” she said.

Cr Pyefinch said the council could raise the money through loans, but those loans would have to be repaid by ratepayers.

But the council had no choice but to embark on the sewerage program.

“This is essential infrastructure,” she said.

“We are upgrading plants because they no longer meet the standards required.”

Cr Pyefinch said the Gin Gin treatment plant had to be upgraded with some urgency.

“We can't put it off for years,” she said.

The council also had to put in new infrastructure to service the coastal communities.

Cr Pyefinch said she understood that tough budgets were hard on residents.

“Every family is under the same pressure we are,” she said.

Cr Pyefinch said the only options the council had open to it was to cut services or increase rates and charges.

“We're hearing from the residents that they definitely don't want their services cut,” she said.

“So we have to try and balance that.”

Cr Pyefinch said the council had done its best to try to improve efficiencies and do things in better ways.

“We have had to make the hard decisions on what can and can't be done,” she said.

Cr Pyefinch said road maintenance and road drainage would be big items in tomorrow's budget, as they were every year.

“We've got 3000km in our road network,” she said.

“Half of it's gravel, but everybody wants their road bitumised.”

Bundaberg and District Senior Citizens Association secretary Jean Vane said increases in rates and charges were going to be difficult for a lot of people to handle.

Mrs Vane said people were faced with car registrations going up, electricity prices going up and drivers' licences going up.

“When we get a small increase in the pension and you go to do your grocery shopping the prices have gone up and it's gone,” she said.

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