14 July, 2021
Budget delivers ‘modest’ rate increase
Residents can expect a rate increase of 2.5 per cent.
LONGREACH council residents will see a “modest” rate increase next financial year, following a freeze in last years’ budget.
The Longreach Regional Council announced it would focus heavily on asset renewal as part of its 2021/22 budget, handed down this week.
However, residents would see net rates increase by 2.5 per cent, with a “close to zero” increase in utilities – equating to a total increase in rates fees, and charges of 0.73 per cent.
According to a statement released by the council, “the annual rating review has made minor adjustments that will achieve a continued increase in fairness and equity across rating categories”.
Council’s cash position is expected to remain strong with $22 million projected to be in the bank at the end of the 2021/22 financial year.
According to council’s statement, it credits this performance to around $500,000 in operational savings achieved in the last two years, including a reduction in vehicles and savings on telecommunications, electricity costs, administration costs, and computer equipment and software.
The Longreach Regional Council expects its asset renewal program announced in the upcoming budget – along with ongoing quarterly reviews – to translate into further operational savings.
Major projects included in the council’s asset renewal program include repairs to the Isisford Weir, valued at $1.2 million, for which council successfully negotiated state government support.
In addition, Isisford will benefit from a major water mains replacement program and improvements to its water treatment plant.
Other major assets receiving attention in the budget are the Longreach Saleyards, the Longreach Aquatic Centre, and the Ilfracombe Water Treatment Plant.
According to council’s statement, the budget is set to restrict the growth of council’s operational deficit to $5.5 million, with a net positive result – after Capital Grants – of $2.6 million.
Council will also deliver a capital program worth $15.4 million in the 2021/22 financial year that includes over $8.1 million in state and federal funding.
Mayor Tony Rayner said the budget was prepared with one aim in mind.
“We started work on this budget in December last year with the aim of balancing our sensitive financial position against the need to maintain a basic standard of community services,” he said.
“Asset management is a big part of ensuring our services are maintainable in the long term.
“Council manages over $300 million in community assets. Maintaining and renewing those assets requires our constant attention.
“It’s a very delicate balance, but one that we have to uphold in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Cr Rayner said the State Government’s support of the Isisford Weir repairs meant the council could commit more to other projects in the budget.
“We’re very grateful for the support of State and Federal Governments, and we’re proud of our relationships with levels of government and their departments,” he said.
“We work well with our state and federal colleagues, we had the Prime Minister here in January and of course the Premier brought Cabinet to Longreach in April.
“That’s where we made the case for State Government to support the repairs to the Isisford Weir.
“If it weren’t for that vital support, we would have had to defer some of our community projects to cover the cost of repairs.”
Through the projected upcoming budget, the council has committed to spending an additional $5.6 million in maintaining and improving town streets, stormwater drainage, and rural roads.
$3.5 million will be dedicated to continue providing water and sewerage services, with $640,000 to delivering community services such as libraries, events, and sponsorships.
An additional $3.8 million will go towards maintaining public facilities like cemeteries, showgrounds, parks and gardens, pools, sporting facilities, and town halls.
An $860,000 commitment will also support the regional tourism industry, with $1.02 million to managing pests, weeds, rural lands, stock routes, and reserves.
Other projects in the capital program includes $1.9 million of major works on rural roads and town streets including construction of a pedestrian footpath to the Longreach Airport, expansion of the childcare centre to provide more capacity for babies and toddlers, and upgrades to the SES building in Longreach.
Cr Rayner said the council was also pursuing a strong strategic agenda in the coming year.
“There are some important strategic outcomes that we’ll be working on this year,” he said.
“Chief among these will be the development of a revised corporate plan, to more accurately reflect the full range of important work undertaken by council.
“The corporate plan sets the strategic agenda for everything council does, so it’s important that it remain relevant to the current policy context and the aspirations of our community.
“We’ll also commence the development of a new economic development strategy to guide our work supporting the region’s economy.
“We’ll further our investigation into raising the weirs on the Thomson River, to improve our water security, while the advancement of our visionary Thomson River Master Plan will continue to drive liveability outcomes for the good of our region.”
Cr Rayner said the budget takes a measured approach to the needs of the region.
“I believe this budget strikes the delicate balance that we always look for,” he said.
“It is considered, strategic, and fiscally responsible.”
The full Longreach Regional Council Budget 2020-2021, including the Mayor’s Budget Statement, visit the council’s website next week.