Businesses brace for rates hit
BUSINESSES both in the CBD and in the rural parts of the region will be stung with rate increases and owners expressed their concerns at Wednesday night's meeting in Warwick Town Hall.
With about 70 CBD businesses due to face a 60 per cent increase in their rates, tough questions were asked of the panel, which consisted of Southern Downs Regional councillors, finance bosses, the mayor and council chief executive officer.
From questioning council's efficiency to foreshadowing de-amalgamation, questions came from the floor, which was made up of a number of well-known movers and shakers in the business world.
A similar meeting to address commercial and industrial rates will be held in Stanthorpe on Tuesday, July 26, from 5.30pm to 7pm at the Stanthorpe Civic Centre.
The Daily News attended the meeting and below are some of the more poignant questions and points of view put to the panel by the crowd of business owners.
BUSINESSMAN Jim Rickard said he remembered the days when council consisted of four blokes in the office and 20 out working.
“All of a sudden infrastructure skyrockets,” he said.
“Council seems to be very top heavy, with a lot of bureaucratic people who tend to stop development in the town rather than encourage it.
“Why can't it operate within its budget and curtail its services to what people can afford?”
Mayor Ron Bellingham responded by saying he was sick and tired of council being the “whipping boy” for State Government.
He said he yearned for the simpler days but denied council was overstaffed and council would not be able to reduce its service at this stage.
WHILE producer Rod Petersen was grateful the rural categories hadn't been stung too badly this year, he is still concerned about how people on large properties are stung with rates despite having no council services.
He said an increase of a few per cent could lead to several-thousand-dollar rate increases for these landowners who were already struggling with difficult growing seasons.
“Rates will not be paid out of this year's profits,” he said.
“I'm very concerned about the track we are going down – it might put council in a viable financial position but it's putting us in an unviable position.”
Cr Bellingham said council was aware of it but by lowering rates in one area, another area had to pick up the tab.
RURAL villages that receive very little council service, such as Maryvale, are subsidising ratepayers in town, Bevan Vanderwolf said.
“It's money for jam,” he said, agreeing with council's decision not to jack up minimum general rate across the board, as it would hurt these rural people the most.
Mr Ferguson and Cr Bellingham said it cost more to provide services to those outlying areas but Cr Ross Bartley agreed with Mr Vanderwolf.
Cr Pennisi said he felt there should be a separate category for these villages and that was one of the reasons he voted against the budget. Mr Vanderwolf also asked how council maintained efficiency and was told about new KPI's being developed.