Today’s Budget provides for an average General Rate increase of 1.5% and increase to Utility Charges of 2% for Water and Sewerage and Waste Services. These rating increases will nett Council an increased income of $313,000 over the 2016/2017 budgeted amount. As total cash operating costs have reduced over the current Budget, the additional income will go towards increased capital expenditure into the roads network, which is a great outcome for our ratepayers. The Water Access Base Charge will increase by $7.30 (2%). Although a 2% increase has been factored into the Water Consumption Charge, the overall Water Consumption income is estimated to reduce by $167,000 due to estimated less consumption. Sewerage Utility Charges will increase by $14.70 (2%), the Cleansing Charge will increase by $4.70 (2%) and the Waste Management Levy will increase by $3.00 (2%) per year.
The focus of today’s Budget is Council’s continuing resolve towards economic growth and job creation. Council has budgeted to expend an amount of $14.525 million in new Capital Works which includes Works for Queensland funding of $1.685million announced in January 2017 and $1.15million which was announced in June 2017. In determining the nature of works to be funded, regard was had to designing, packaging and delivering jobs that can be delivered by local contractors and workforce so as to provide economic stimulus within the community. Funding of the Capital Program will include an amount of $2.78 million from reserves to assist with the planned stimulus activities. Key Capital Works Projects to be delivered include:
- $4.718 million in roads, bridge replacement and drainage projects
- $720,000 in sewerage projects
- $1.635 million in water projects
- $360,000 in kerb and channel upgrades
- $200,000 in beach protection control work
- $300,000 in footpath enhancement work
- $243,000 in financial assistance to the Herbert River Improvement Trust to facilitate ongoing remediation works within the district.
This Budget also provides for ongoing capital for Council to pursue economic diversification activities previously commenced in the fields of tourism, events, business facilitation and agriculture. Key components include:
- Development of a holistic shire-wide Economic Marketing Strategy - $20,000
- Investment Prospectus - $18,000
- Augmentation of the Hinchinbrook Way Website - $25,000
- Forrest Beach Vital Places Strategy - $23,000
- Broadwater / Wallaman - Nature based sporting precinct master planning - $75,000
- Facilitating business development and start-up capabilities - $30,000.
Other components include:
- Attraction of edu based tourism activities and business
- Product development focussing upon cruise and military shipping visitation opportunities from neighbouring ports
- Alternate crop production and marketing complimentary to sugar cane.
The success of exploratory works undertaken last year will see Council partnering with a number of different organisations this financial year in bringing new events to the district including:
- The Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) and Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) conference – international delegates focussed on discussing and improvement of agricultural pursuits on the world stage (first conference ever held in Australia)
- The inaugural Wallaman to TYTO to Fox (WTF) bicycle racing event – road and mountain biking event to be staged in Hinchinbrook wilderness areas for hiking and biking enthusiasts.
Council has committed $60,000 for the preparation of an Infrastructure Development Plan to support the new Planning Scheme with a view to reducing red tape in development processes and for adaptation of more self-assessable development in an attempt to foster and encourage more diverse development.
An amount of $300,000 has also been allocated for beautification and refurbishment works to both CBD and Herbert Street corridors, including provision of better amenities where required. Planning on the nature of such work has been delayed due to the necessity to liaise with the Department of Transport and Main Roads, but Council will be in a position to consult with the public on design concepts with a view to progressing works in the near future.
The tough financial conditions our district is facing, due to the continuing difficult economic climate, continues to be a major challenge for Council and significant attention and time has been spent on interrogating work practices and systems in order to achieve best possible efficiencies as a method of placing downward pressure on rates.
Although the Local Government CPI increase was calculated at 1.74% in 2017, Council was able to achieve a $287,000 decrease in total cash operating costs over the previous year. This has been achieved even though the level of services which are being provided to the community remains unchanged. Council has achieved this by:
- A major focus on reducing Consultancy Costs.
- Maintaining a very tight control over how Council’s funds are expended. A new Purchasing Policy was implemented whereby Council harnesses its purchasing power to achieve greater value for money and ensures open and effective competition.
The Policy also had a significant focus on the development of competitive local business and industry.
- Council has a very active internal Business Improvement Team in place with representation across Council. The objective of this team is to review better and smarter management practices to ensure the cost to supply services are minimised.
- Vehicle usage has been significantly reviewed during the financial year. As a result of this, Council was able to reduce its fuel budgets by $43,800, an 8.94 % reduction.
- Effecting changes to Council’s Organisational Management Structure by decreasing the number of Departments currently operating and amalgamating core work portfolios to achieve better efficiency of resources.
- Council has reviewed its electricity tariffs and even though electricity prices have increased significantly, Council has reduced its electricity budget by $90,000 (7.7% decrease).
- Council has successfully trialled new solar power generation systems at the Hinchinbrook Aquatic Centre complex to reduce electricity bills. Additional funding to further pursue investigation and implementation of solar technology has been allowed for at $100,000, as current results are successfully assisting Council in reducing its annual energy consumption costs, which ultimately assist in reducing overall annual operating costs.
Despite the significant focus on achieving most practicable cost efficiencies, Council is still subjected to increasing costs in areas outside of its control including matters such as electricity, vehicle registration, government statutory charges, increases in cost of construction, environmental compliance, maintaining and renewing ageing infrastructure and general reduction in funding streams. The drive for better efficiencies and cost effectiveness will continue over the new financial year, as my fellow Councillors and I are committed to ensuring we keep pace with community expectation, while striving to progress economic growth and job creation across the Hinchinbrook region.
A key responsibility of Council is to ensure its future sustainability by ensuring sufficient capital to maintain and replace assets as and when required to enable continuity of service to the community. Today’s Budget, whilst focusing on delivery of job creation opportunities, also reflects a program of asset replacement and replenishment in keeping with Council’s adopted long term Asset Management Plans which meet statutory requirements.
The Budget caters for the continuing operations and maintenance of all services previously delivered including recreation and sporting facilities, swimming pools, community, cultural, library, welfare services, public halls, pest management and environmental health services at the level presently occurring.
Provision is also made for continuing community support programs including the Hinchinbrook Community Support Centre and community sporting and assistance organisations to a value of $357,000. Allowance has been made to continue pensioner discounts of 20% to a maximum of $200 and concessions to not for profit organisations at the levels provided in 2016/2017.
It is a major challenge for Council to seek its fair share of the tax pie for the benefit of our residents and the growth of our region. Currently the Federal Government takes 80% of taxes, the State 16%, and Local Government – Councils just 4%. Council is under constant pressure to expand the range and quality of services, rising community expectations and increasing demands notwithstanding funding cuts from other levels of government and a slow progress of devolution of duties from the same tiers of government.
There are no frilly items to this Budget, but I commend same to you on the basis that same provides for the continuation of momentum of the regeneration of our economic circumstances, by creation of an environment for job growth and infrastructure development.
I must also thank my fellow Councillors, our Chief Executive Officer Dan and all staff that have been involved in assisting bringing this Budget together. Rating increases have been kept to the bare minimum needs, only through the spirited efforts of staff willingly looking at ways to reduce operational costs, through efficiencies gained. This aspect of our operation will continue and I sincerely thank you for your efforts in that regard.
I present the 2017/2018 Hinchinbrook Shire Council Budget to you and formally move for its adoption.
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