Last year’s public backlash to the budget.
Last year’s public backlash to the budget.

Council begins budget process

AFTER rates notices hit letterboxes last year, there were calls, protests, refusals to pay and a petition to State Government asking for the entire local authority to be sacked.

It’s not long since the noise dimmed, but as council’s corporate services department starts to number crunch the 2011/12 budget, while director Andy Ireland has been in the game long enough to know no budget is easy, he’ll be hoping this year isn’t as colourful.

With initial reports suggesting Southern Downs property values should on average increase by 10 percent (see our front page story), Mr Ireland stressed that didn’t translate to a 10 per cent increase in rates.

Each department within council fixed up its wish list at last month’s round of meetings and next week the senior management team will lock horns and review these proposed budgets.

Each directorate gets to review the other areas’ budgets and Mr Ireland said there’s some culling done at that stage with the CEO questioning entries.

Following this a round of budget meetings with council will begin.

The planned deadline is July 7.

This is the last chance our elected officials have at the budget before the next election and Mr Ireland said, while council still struggles to fix up its rating system, new challenges come in the form of the flood clean up.

“I think putting a budget together is always concern,” he said.

“Balancing political requirements is always a challenge.

“This time round the impact of flooding on the capital works programs are expected to take a big chunk of out the operational works budget.”

Council is still waiting to find what funding it will receive from government to help it in the region’s flood recovery.

Last year’s budget was described as “hellish” as State Government valuation spikes led to huge headaches for the council, which was trying to melt together the two formerly separate shire rating systems.

Stanthorpe was already on a differential rating system, while Warwick wasn’t.

The $65 million budget saw a 9.6 per cent average increase in rates, which spelt much more for those who experienced valuation hikes.

Mr Ireland insisted the average 10 per cent increase in valuations wouldn’t necessarily translate to 10 per cent rate increases, “because council has the ability to manipulate the model to soften the impact of valuations.

Fears valuations would be delivered late were unfounded and Mr Ireland was confident council would meet its July budget deadline.



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