Brace for a 9.6% rate jump

SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council this morning passed the 2011-12 budget, which will see a 9.6 per cent average general rate increase.

While most debate was conducted in behind-closed-door meetings in recent weeks, this morning's special meeting was not without its tense moments.

Crs Vic Pennisi, Ross Bartley and Cameron Gow voted against the budget.

For Cr Pennisi, he argued the rate increase was too much of a burden for a community that's already doing it tough.

Crs Bartley and Gow argued for a 6 per cent average rate increase and the introduction of a flood levy to help with repairing the region.

In introducing the budget, Mayor Ron Bellingham said this was his 12th budget and arguably the hardest.

He thanked councillors, staff and the rating consultative committee for their input.

He said making a uniform rating system across the region was enough of a challenge, but the floods also took their toll.

"We've not been helped by the withdrawal of State Government support and the fact there is an unknown quantum of FAG (Financial Assistance Grants)," he said.

The new minimum general rate for residential properties will be $795 and $900 on commercial and industrial properties.

This afternoon, council is holding a media briefing and question and answer session with councillors and staff.

In tomorrow's Daily News, we will have full budget coverage including details of today's in chamber debate, a full list of rating categories, where the money is going and interviews from this afternoon's Q&A.



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