Discussion was heated and opinions differed as Livingstone mayor Bill Ludwig sought to have his budget passed.
Discussion was heated and opinions differed as Livingstone mayor Bill Ludwig sought to have his budget passed. Darryn Nufer

Read between the lines of the Livingstone budget

ALL homeowners in the Livingstone Shire will get a 2.1 per cent general rates rise after a drama-filled day inside council chambers today.

Mayor Bill Ludwig may have thought that handing down his 15th budget was going to be smooth sailing on what was a picture-perfect Capricorn Coast day, but it proved anything but.

The "sleeping giant" in the room, landlord tax - something councillors had debated many, many times before - was awakened very early on in proceedings during the special budget meeting.

Robust and at various stages heated discussion ensued, centring around the charges applied to non-owner-occupied residences - the majority of which are considered to be rental properties.

What was presented by Mayor Ludwig at the start of the day was a budget that would have given first home buyers, families, seniors, pensioners and residential homeowners who occupy their properties, a 1.5 per cent general rate rise.

But after more than four-and-a-half hours of drama, which included a meeting adjournment while some councillors met for private discussions with the chief financial officer, and "in session" debate where all elected members contributed views on a proposed increase in landlord tax - the majority voted to pass the budget with one significant amendment.

Councillors Adam Belot, Pat Eastwood, Glenda Mather, Tom Wyatt and Bill Ludwig voted for a blanket 2.1 per cent general rate increase for all of the shire's homeowners.

Although Cr Ludwig supported this, he had earlier spoken against a further impost on households and pensioners.

The development effectively brought the landlord tax rise in-line with the rates increase for owner-occupiers.

For the average residential ratepayer, it means a $1.93 per week general rate increase ($100.36 a year) instead of the $1.59 figure that appeared in the original budget ($82.60 a year).

Crs Nigel Hutton and Jan Kelly did not support the alternate budget and spoke against it.

Cr Hutton said it would make the shire's rates a bigger hurdle for first homebuyers to climb and further exacerbate the challenges seniors and pensioners faced.

"We had before us a battler's budget, which just as we have many times over the past six years, identified a market sector in need and sought to provide additional relief in the form of lower rate rises for the overwhelming majority of residential home owners," he said.

"The adopted rating strategy is great for 9 per cent of our rateable properties (landlords), but what about everyone else?"

Once councillors had jumped the landlord tax hurdle they cruised through the remaining agenda items to give the 2019/20 budget the green light.

Landlord tax aside, Mayor Ludwig's budget had earlier met with endorsement around the council table.

Cr Eastwood probably summed the day's dramatic events up best when he said: "Sometimes in council we do need to make compromises and the budget as a whole was (originally) a good budget, and now we've made it a great budget."

It would be appropriate however, to leave the final words to Mayor Ludwig.

"I'm pleased that all councillors agreed it is a cracker of a budget," Cr Ludwig said.

"This budget and the decisions that we make is not about being popular, it's about making the right decision for our community and our future."