WORKING HARDER: Central Highlands councillors are proud of what they have achieved in the new budget.
WORKING HARDER: Central Highlands councillors are proud of what they have achieved in the new budget. Contributed

Council has released its new budget

WHILE the average Central Highlands homeowner can expect to pay 2% extra in fees and charges following the release of the 2017-18 council budget, there will be no rise in rates.

Mayor Kerry Hayes said the council was proud of the fact it was able to keep rates low, besides the unavoidable fee and charge increases that are annual costs.

"We wanted to make it work harder and make it work better,” Cr Hayes said of the budget.

He said although the council had a reduced operating budget compared to the past financial year, residents could still expect the same level of service.

Cr Hayes acknowledged the council was aware of the pressure on households to pay bills and there was not the capacity in the community to be slapped with a rates rise.

"We want to keep people here,” he said.

"While the current consumer price index is around 1.9%, we have chosen to work harder with what we have and put into practice further innovative management practice to gain more efficiencies.

"The early payment incentive period remains at 30 days and ratepayers will benefit by 10% if their rates are paid within this period.

"Rates notices will be issued twice a year in August and February and the pensioner concession of 50% is unchanged.

"For the first time in many years, the budget will be presented as a deficit because the Australian Government's Financial Assistance Grants were received in the preceding financial year.”

Cr Hayes said capital expenditure this year was comparable to last year at about $70million and the council would continue to supplement the works programs with government funding.

"We will receive $6.3million from the Queensland Government for the Yamala Enterprise Area and wastewater and floodways projects, and the region will benefit from $2.55million from the Works for Queensland Fund over the next two years,” he said.

"Ongoing Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery works from Cyclone Debbie will total in excess of $30 million over the next few financial years.

"We continue to exercise a prudent approach to the cash position and have maintained a low level of borrowings, with an amount of $5million anticipated for this financial year.

"There are green shoots in the economy but it is still a time for caution.”

"Notwithstanding the reduction our revenue, we will continue to create the best value we can and provide the smart, cost effective services that residents expect.

"Increases in utilities have been restricted to a sewer charge of $10 per pedestal that will help pay for the significant and essential upgrade to Black Gully waste water treatment plant that is currently under construction at a total cost of $22 million.”

The 2017-2018 budget shows a $1.25 million operating deficit that, when adjusted for the early payment, has an underlying surplus of $3.15 million.

"Whichever way you look at it, this is a tight budget and we will have to be on our mettle to keep it in balance during the year,” Cr Hayes said.

"However, in saying that, I'm confident that the Central Highlands is in a sound financial position and this budget will hold us in good stead in the years to come.”

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