I am pleased to present the 2018/2019 Budget. It has been an extremely difficult budget to prepare, given the tight economic times facing the district at present and the largely unexpected changes by the Queensland Valuer-General to both rural and residential valuations – essentially significant movement in opposite directions.
The recent revaluation of the Shire has evidenced some massive changes in property values and whilst Council is proposing an increase in rate revenue to a forecast 1% general rate income, some 26% of properties in all sectors will experience a rate increase of above 5% on last year’s rates. The variations in each category have made it impossible to avoid such increases, with the tools presently available to Council, whilst maintaining a modest increase in revenue to offset rising costs.
With little or no growth, revenue streams are decreasing whilst operating costs continue to rise. This year alone, non-discretionary operating costs such as electricity, insurance, fuel, wages and registration, to name a few, have increased by $558,000.
A general rate revenue increase of 1% of general rate over the 2018/2019 financial year, as proposed, will net Council an additional $166,200.
Water, sewerage, cleansing, waste and environmental charges are proposed to be increased by 1.89%, in line with the Council cost index issued by the Local Government Association of Queensland.
The overall increase in gross rates and utility charges combined compared with the 2017/2018 budget is 1.26%.
Council’s priority for this budget has been to ensure that planning for the sustainable future of our region, through economic diversification opportunities continue, as well as ensuring services to the community and infrastructure are maintained at the appropriate level in accord with community expectation.
Without job creation it will be difficult to reverse the population decline that has plagued our region since 1996. A total capital expenditure program in the renewal or upgrade of infrastructure amounting to $12.66 million is proposed including:
- Roads and bridges $3.888 million
- Water and sewerage $4.066 million
- Fleet replacement $1.2 million
Capital Projects to enhance our community’s lifestyle and the liveability of our region are proposed at $1.5 million. Projects include: Lucinda swimming enclosure; adventure playground equipment at Forrest Beach; an additional pontoon at Dungeness; Lannercost Street and Herbert Street Park revitalisation and heritage style lighting upgrades in the Halifax main street. A further $100,000 has been allocated to finalise the shared services, footpaths providing extension connecting the Palms Aged Care Facility with the Cartwright Street footpath network.
Capital for Council to pursue economic diversification activities previously commenced in the fields of tourism, events, business facilitation and agriculture has been budgeted to an amount of $470,000. Works in this area include further environmental planning and study in the application processes for better marine access at both Dungeness and Forrest Beach. Maintenance dredging will again be carried out at Taylors Beach.
With planning and approval processes almost complete, beautification and refurbishment works to Lannercost and Herbert Street precincts to an amount of $300,000 will be commissioned in the forthcoming financial year.
Council has allowed $90,000 to continue to investigate the feasibility of a solar farm as a carry-over activity from the current financial year as an initiative to reducing costs into the future.
Council’s community grants program will again distribute $248,000 to local organisations. Council will continue to support Tasman Turtle, Australian-Italian Festival, T20-40 Cricket and Maraka to name a few.
Council will continue with its financial support towards sport and recreation for the youth of our district in various manners including:
- $10,760 General rate relief to sporting associations occupying their own grounds for sporting activities
- $1.8 million Operating and maintenance costs of park and recreational areas
Council will continue to provide its own rebate of 20% to a maximum of $200 to pensioners in addition to the State Government rebate.
Council will continue with its objectives to establish our district as a flourishing tourist destination of choice as a job creator through its Hinchinbrook Way brand. Works to be undertaken include:
- Continuing to implement a comprehensive marketing campaign incorporating the Hinchinbrook Way, Hinchinbrook Way Walk, and Hinchinbrook Way Drive, to create an enviable lifestyle and contribute to the whole of life liveability of our Shire, to support the economic prosperity of our Shire.
- Refurbish the Hinchinbrook Visitor Information Lounge to align it with contemporary visitor expectations and embrace technology in line with today’s society.
- Complete the Herbert Street park upgrade to create a welcoming place for locals and visitors to enjoy.
- Finish the final stage of Lannercost Street revitalisation with the installation of more seating, attractive flower pots and modern bins promoting the Shire.
- Finalise the Investment Prospectus and Economic Development Snapshot in order to promote the Shire’s opportunities to the rest of the world.
- Continue to build on the achievements to date in the tourism arena to increase the attraction of tourists to the Shire. Partner with local tourism operators, businesses and the Hinchinbrook Way to build our capacity to attract the Townsville and wider tourism market. Take advantage of social media opportunities to further promote the Shire.
- Complete the installation of the Hinchinbrook Way Drive signage.
Roads maintenance remains a key priority in this year’s budget with a view to improving our road network. Approximately $7.7 million will be spent on road maintenance, operations and rehabilitation. $450,000 will be spent on replacing Baileys Bridge at Stone River. Full details are available in the budget documents.
Approximately $4.1 million has been allocated towards the operations and maintenance of our water and sewerage networks.
Approximately $750,000 has been allocated to effect remediation works at the Warren’s Hill Waste Management Facility to address long term environmental licensing requirements. A further $500,000 is proposed to be spent on rectifying continuing problems associated with Council’s information technology and communication infrastructure and network.
Council’s vision to establish the district as a tourism destination of choice, leveraging the world renowned Wallaman Falls as a catalyst, will be enhanced by funding of a Master Plan towards establishment of activities catering to walking, bush walking, mountain biking and other eco-leisure pursuits.
From a disaster management aspect, funding of $110,000 has been allocated towards assisting resilience building in local business and community groups. $144,000 has also been allocated towards establishing an electronic flood height data system referencing residential floor heights throughout the district to river levels through the use of Lidar technologies.
What I have outlined above is only a snapshot of the proposed work, project and program activities. Full details can be found on Council’s websites.
The 2018/2019 Operational Plan details the priority projects for Council over the following 12 months with a focus on pursuing economic diversification.
This budget reflects a responsible approach to encouraging business development to revitalise the economy in our district, whilst ensuring the sustainability of Council infrastructure and services into the future. $44,000 has been allowed for business development incentives.
In conclusion, I believe that this budget delivers a program that will progress creation of job opportunities and economic growth and sustainability in a financially restrained and responsible manner.
It is generally thought that the Mayor is responsible for preparing and delivering the budget. That is not true in the case of our Council and I would like to thank my fellow Councillors for their willing participation and assistance in preparation of this budget over the last six months.
I would also like to thank our dedicated staff, in particular our Chief Executive Officer, the executive leadership and finance team who have worked very diligently towards achieving the best outcome for Council and our community under very demanding circumstances.
Councillors, I present the 2018/2019 budget to you for adoption.