Rockhampton Regional Council councillors Shane Latcham, Drew Wickerson, Neil Fisher, Mayor Margaret Strelow and Councillor Ellen Smith present the 2020-21 budget.
Rockhampton Regional Council councillors Shane Latcham, Drew Wickerson, Neil Fisher, Mayor Margaret Strelow and Councillor Ellen Smith present the 2020-21 budget.

ROCKY 20/21 BUDGET: How the rates changes affect you

MORE THAN half of Rockhampton region residential ratepayers will pay less in rates than they did last year or the same amount as Rockhampton Regional Council adopts the 2020-21 budget today.

Officially handing down the budget, Mayor Margaret Strelow said there was good news and there were some difficulties in the financial report as council navigated serious losses from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

Each resident will receive $70 concession which will be applied to the first bill issued later this month.

This mean 65 per cent of residents will pay less in rates or the same amount as they did in the 19/20 financial year. 

This concession has cost council $1.6 million.

Mayor Strelow talks about budget : Adoption of 2020-21 budget
Mayor Strelow talks about budget : Adoption of 2020-21 budget

Rates and charges represent 75 per cent of council's total operating income.

This year's rates and charges have been challenging as there has been a new land valuation for the region, effective from July 1, 2020.

There has been an overall rateable property reduction of 5.2 per cent and the average residential valuation has reduced by 10.28 per cent.

Taking this into account, the overall increase and rate revenue this coming financial year is 1.64 per cent.

Properties in category six, defined as agriculture, farming and other rural land have had land valuation increases of 9.5 per cent.

To ensure a fair system of rating, an overall increase of 2.95 per cent has been applied.

"If there were no increases or reductions in valuations, it would have been easy for council to have a rates freeze across everyone," Cr Strelow said.

"Every person is going to have a different bill, I can't give a figure and say you are one of the lucky ones who will have a reduction over last year or whether you are unlucky."

This budget is the first in seven years to be projected to have a deficit position of $5.4 million with increased borrowings of $29.4 million to cater for the capital program.

"We will do the best we can to repair that," Cr Strelow said.

"To get big projects finished we may need to borrow money and we will do our best not to borrow that much money if we can."

A breakdown of Rockhampton Regional Council's 2020-21 budget.
A breakdown of Rockhampton Regional Council's 2020-21 budget.

The deficit is a direct result of reduced activity at Rockhampton Airport as passenger numbers for June 2020 were 15 per cent of what they were the same time last year.

Cr Strelow said while it was not ideal, these are extraordinary times.

The total lost revenue for the airport for the 19/20 and 20/21 year is estimated at $7.4 million.

It is estimated full capacity numbers will return in two years' time.

Council also lost $738,000 in the venues and events 19/20 budget, particularly through the cancellation of shows at the Pilbeam Theatre including many refunds for four Mamma Mia shows.

"It's one of those things at the moment we cannot control," she said.

Cr Strelow said it just was not possible to produce a budget that wasn't in deficit.

It is the first deficit budget since the deamalgamation.

If council was to bring a budget without a deficit, council staff would have had to be laid off and there would have been a significant rate rise.

"We have made a commitment to keep as many staff as possible, there has been some reductions in casual hours," Cr Strelow said.

"We recognise we are a major employer, so we have obligations to our own staff and the broader community to keep the economy ticking along."

To mitigate council's own losses, council is seeking reductions in overtime, travel and

conferences for the 20/21 financial year.

Council estimates it will be back in surplus in 12 months' time.

"It may end up a better year than we are projecting," Cr Strelow said.

The budget does include a record $170 million capital program with $64.3 million funded by capital grants:

o New Art Gallery construction - (subsidy $10.9 million) $24.3 million

o Gracemere Sewerage Treatment Plant Augmentation - $0.5 million

commencement of a $5.0 million upgrade

o North Rockhampton Sewerage Treatment Plant - $3.0 million commencement

of a $21.5 million upgrade

o Glenmore Water Treatment Plant Electrical upgrade - $1.8 million of a $7.6

million upgrade.

o Airport Terminal works - $19.85 million

o Quay St - Gavial Creek Bridge renewal - $4 million

o Annual Road Renewal program - $17.7 million

o Solar Energy at Glenmore Water Treatment Plant - $2.65 million

o New landfill cells at Lakes Creek Landfill -$3.86 million

o New footpaths funded by Federal Government Local Roads and Community

Infrastructure Program - $866,000

o South Rockhampton Flood Levee - $30.2 million with $28.0 million subsidy.

Rockhampton region mayor Margaret Strelow and CFO Alicia Cutler.
Rockhampton region mayor Margaret Strelow and CFO Alicia Cutler.

"Based on previous years, more than 75 per cent of that money will be spent locally, bearing in mind some specialist equipment like airport lighting can only be purchased out of region," Cr Strelow said.

"Our roads, water, sewerage programs are going to continue, and council will continue to deliver excellent services."

Commenting on how this has been one of the toughest budgets she has ever worked on, Cr Strelow said they had to start from a complete blank slate.

"I don't think any government anywhere in the world is finding things easy at the moment," she said.

"We normally project ahead 10 years with a fair bit of detail around three years forward and that all went out the window.

"While times are tough, this budget has a lot of good in it for the whole community as we work our way through this recovery together."

Council also previously announced a community assistance package worth $1.3 million which included waiving interest on outstanding rates arrears, refunds for leases to sporting clubs and a community hardship grants program.

Council anticipates there may be a further budget review to respond to future events.