Graham Buchner calculates the cost of his rates.
Graham Buchner calculates the cost of his rates.

Budget delayed for public viewing

DESPITE being adopted by councillors on Wednesday, the 2010-11 budget was still not fully finished last night as the Daily News went to print.

Council officials blamed a depleted staff for the time delay in the full budget being ready for public viewing.

A media kit with Mayor Ron Bellingham and CEO Rod Ferguson’s take on the budget, along with some facts and figures, was distributed on Wednesday, but ratepayers were still waiting last night to see in full where their money would be going.

Cr Bellingham claimed the council managed to slash $5 million from the draft budget and that the projected deficit was $128,161, with surpluses forecast for next year and beyond.

As word spread, property and business owners throughout the region were grabbing their calculators to work out the damage.

Some rates are set to soar while, incredibly, others may receive a rate reduction as the council struggles to come to terms with the new rating system and the State Government’s controversial unimproved land valuations.

The Daily News gave Graham Buchner, owner of Warwick Freighters and Ag Services, one of its custom-made calculators to crunch his numbers.

Though at first glance the rates looked fairly grim, Mr Buchner was philosophical about the rise.

“It’s unfortunate, but every year prices go up for everything,” he said.

“Council is blessed with the same trouble we all are.

“I think council probably operates as efficiently as it can. We have to pay our fair share and that’s what we will do.”

The “tough budget” will bring a 9.7 per cent rate revenue increase and a new region-wide differential rating system, while scrapping road and waste levies in Warwick and landfill levies in Stanthorpe. The length of time ratepayers have to pay their account and still receive a discount was extended to 60 days.

Of some concern was the announcement by Mr Ferguson that over the next 12 months the council would review all its fees and charges, “to ensure equity across the region”.

Mr Buchner’s sentiments were echoed by Jim Rickard of Rickard Motors.

“I’m expecting about a third of an increase. Hopefully it will be lower,” Mr Rickard said.

“I understand rates have to go up but I’m disappointed it’s 9.7 per cent. It should be closer to CPI (Consumer Price Index).

“But I also feel that the fact we’ve had a forced amalgamation put on us – and that isn’t councillors’ fault – hasn’t helped things.”

Mr Rickard believed the amalgamations had created “bigger bureaucracy”.

“It’s a question of efficiency and I feel that bureaucracy generates more bureaucracy,” he said. “I feel a little for councillors when they have to come up with a plan that’s equitable; how you do it, I’m not sure.

“I just hope they don’t charge businesses more because they think we can afford it – that’s not the case. It should be shared equally amongst everyone.”

Payment tips

When you get your rate notice, make sure you’re in the right category.

Pre-pay rates throughout the year and pay within the 60 day discount period.

If you’re struggling, apply for approval to pay by instalments.

Direct any questions to Council’s Revenue Offices in Warwick and Stanthorpe.

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