Community & Business

25 July, 2023

Rising costs push rates up

THE impacts of rising costs being felt by the community are also taking its toll on Mareeba Shire Council but the organisation’s gains in efficiencies have allowed it to bring down a budget that maintains the delivery of facilities and services at an acceptable standard while keeping the rate rise well beneath CPI.

By Robyn Holmes

Rising costs push rates up - feature photo

Mayor Angela Toppin delivered the $75.3 million Budget last week, describing it as “responsible and sustainable” – a theme echoed by all councillors in the chamber.

The budget allows for a 3.98 per cent increase in general rates which is higher than the 2.5 per cent rise that was predicted in the council’s long-term financial plan, which has been reviewed given the current economic conditions throughout the country.

Other key components of the budget were a 2.5 per cent rise for sewerage and water access, a 5.33 per cent rise for kerbside waste services, and a 3.98 per cent per kilolitre increase for water usage to fund a $22.8 million capital works program and council’s operating expenditure of $52.5 million.

“As a council, financial sustainability remains one of our cornerstones with the decisions we make today having a direct impact on the financial sustainability of the shire in the future,” Mayor Toppin said.

“We are also cognisant of the financial pressures that ratepayers face and our decision making is always tempered by this fact.

“This year’s Budget is based on council’s long-term financial plan which we have revised in reflection of the current economic climate.

“The pressures and challenges facing businesses in Australia are equally impactful on councils and this is evident in the increase in our operating budget.”

Mayor Toppin said the inflationary rate, which had peaked at 7.8 per cent this year, had been hard on the community and council “was not immune” to that impact.

A program led by chief executive officer Peter Franks has found more efficiencies in the way the council does its business and was mentioned several times during the budget meeting, with all councillors recognising that staff were doing their utmost to limit expenditure where possible.

“The cost to deliver our core services has increased over three years from $46.9 million in 2021 to a projected $52.5 million in 2023-24, increase of 12 per cent,” Mayor Toppin said.

“Council has undertaken a careful review of its expenditure to limit rate increases and I am happy to say we have managed to hold the general rate increase to 3.98 per cent for the 2023-24 financial year.

“For the average ratepayer, this increase equates to approximately an additional $1 per week.

“The decision to increase rates by an amount greater than 2.5 per cent predicted in the long-term financial plan was not an easy one.”

This year’s capital works program features significant investment in core infrastructure.

“This works program is focused on renewal of existing assets, with the main elements of this program including $7.67 million spend on transport infrastructure, $5.69 million investment on wastewater infrastructure and $2.63 million spend on water infrastructure,” Mayor Toppin said.

“Enhancements to the shire’s community facilities and active recreation assets are also included in this year’s budget with a combined budget of $4.5 million.

“This recognises the importance of improving liveability for residents while pursuing responsible asset management practices.”

Among the capital works projects is the revitalisation of Bicentennial Lakes, and more investment in council’s 10-Year Water Strategy, with major projects planned such as $1.6 million for the replacement of ageing water pipes across the shire which are reaching the end of their useful life. 

“This work is critical in preventing large scale interruptions to the water supply network,” Mayor Toppin explained.

“Ongoing renewal works in the wastewater network are also planned, including the renewal of the Atherton Street Pump Station, and council is actively seeking grant funding to bring the $2.55 million project to fruition.”

Operating expenditure for the 2023-24 year will surpass $52 million, with $4.72 million allocated to community facilities, culture and libraries.

More than $2 million has been allocated to community facilities and council buildings.

“Council recognises the important role these facilities play across the shire, and with this commitment, various clubs and organisations will be able to continue delivering their projects and events,” Mayor Toppin said.

“I am also happy to report that $625,000 has been allocated to community partnerships and events.

“Much of what makes Mareeba Shire Council so liveable is thanks to our passionate volunteers, sportspeople, and club members, and this commitment in the 2023-24 budget will contribute to many and wonderful events and partnerships.”

Libraries have received a budget of $1.02 million and swimming pools a budget of just over $800,000.


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