BUDGET SPEECH: Mayor Rachel Chambers.
BUDGET SPEECH: Mayor Rachel Chambers. Contributed

IN DETAIL: Burdens on the council budget

NORTH Burnett Regional Council's narrow revenue base, the burden of depreciation costs, a loss of road maintenance contracts, a reduction in jobs flowing from natural disaster funding, the council's role as an employer and increasing compliance costs in the environment and waste sectors, have all weighed on the council's mind when crafting its 2019-20 Budget, according to Mayor Rachel Chambers.


She delivered her Budget Speech on Tuesday morning in Mundubbera, setting out the many challenges faced by the region and how they have affected Council's bottom line.

"Our rating base of just under 7000 properties is static and the option afforded to other more populated councils to corporatise their council business streams is not one available to us," Cr Chambers said.

"As such, we are heavily reliant on both Federal and State Government grant opportunities."

The inconsistent and competitive nature of these grants "make forward planning enormously difficult and frustrating", she said.

"New infrastructure would be extremely nice to have in our community, but given the assets we already have, it makes more financial sense to maintain and renew these.

"With any new asset comes an increased level of depreciation, which in the case of local government is considered to be a real cost and must be funded as part of our budget.

"Depreciation costs account for approximately one-third of our total budget expenses and unlike business and industry, it isn't tax deductible for us."

A change in the way the State Government has awarded road contracts in the region "has greatly affected our revenue and the work available for staff", Cr Chambers said.

"We are still working hard at regaining this income, as it would go a long way towards Council achieving a sustainable financial position and providing jobs for the region and contractors."

This has been compounded by a concurrent reduction in jobs due to the end of natural disaster funding, which has been a constant in Council's bottom line since 2011.

"The end of this funding will mean a decrease of around $9 million to this year's capital works program," Cr Chambers said.

"Over the last eight years the region has seen a total of $163 million invested through flood recovery works, which has meant extra employment for our own council staff, local contractors and of course accommodation and food-based businesses right across the region.

"We are the second largest employer in the region and as such, we ensure we understand and evaluate the impacts our decisions make on the ground."

Cr Chambers said, although Council has an operational deficit, only 33 out of 77 councils in Queensland have an operational surplus, concluding that "we are in good company."

"We will adopt a plan to continue to reduce the level of our deficit going forward," she said.

"This, and further reductions to our deficit position, can only come from altering service levels, a task which comes with numerous complications and effects on the community."

Cr Chambers said the council had prioritised investing in planning and data collection, utilising that data to make "transparent, sustainable and equitable decisions", maintaining North Burnett's road networks, improving liveability in the region, and communicating more effectively with communities.

"Taking into account all of these factors and considerations, the council is pleased to present the 2019-2020 North Burnett Regional Council Budget," she said.

"This is not a budget with bells and whistles but a financially responsible one backed by good data, prudent decision making and only the best of intentions."

South Burnett

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