Mayor Peter Maguire.
Mayor Peter Maguire.

Council's 3% rate rise favourable valuation

A THREE per cent general rate rise is tipped for Central Highlanders when council hands down its 2011/12 budget on Monday.

Mayor Peter Maguire said one of the biggest issues in recent years – rural rates capping at 30% – had virtually been eliminated thanks to more favourable recent Department of Environment and Resource Management valuations.

Coal mines faced the biggest rate hike, a planned 17%.

“This (capping) was one of the major issues last time with thousands affected,” Cr Maguire said.

“There was $6m worth of capping for rural people last year.

“But we’re only going to have 28 properties affected by capping this time, so effectively this has got rid of capping.

“The new valuations have contributed to that.”

Cr Maguire said the breakdown of affected properties was 24 large urban home sites mostly in Emerald, three mine sites and one vacant block of land.

Rural rates last year contributed $12.3m of the total $38.3m collected by council.

Cr Maguire said in the 2011/12 financial year, 37% of rates would come from the residential, commercial and industrial sector, 31% from coal mining, and 32% from rural zones.

The extra impost on the mining division came after one mine successfully appealed its DERM valuation and consolidated all its properties, decreasing its council rates contribution by $1m.

“We’ve had to recover that $1m, so the coal mining contribution will be around 17% more than last year,” Cr Maguire said.

“That doesn’t include any special rates like roads contributions from the mines.”

The forecast rises are in line with those handed down by surrounding councils.

While the finer points of the budget are this week being finalised after a meeting in Springsure on Monday, Cr Maguire said water and sewerage rate increases would also be around the 3% mark.

“We’re still looking at the whole show, but we’ve had to cut back on our capital works program because we have a lot of Natural Disaster Relief Recovery Arrangement money to spend anyway,” he added.

“We have looked at some of our operational costs and managers have been instructed to hold back on that side as well even though our construction index is over 7%.

“There’s a lot of things being looked at too for cost-cutting.”

Flood reconstruction projects continued to dominate council’s works program.

With $70m damage to the road network alone, contractors have been brought in, and Cr Maguire said staff were still working on types, pricing and project scoping for the works.

A lot of budgeted capital works remained unstarted or not completed in 2010/11 and would be carried over into 2011/12, he added.

The Central Highlands council announced last week it was undertaking sweeping internal post-amalgamation reforms.

The top jobs in its current five-department structure have been thrown open, with a review recommending a more streamlined three-department structure.

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