Rate rise stalled, for now: How the budget affects you
The Southern Downs Regional Council is planning to stall rate rises for the first six months of the 20/21 financial year, according to the budget draft released this week.
The draft proposes a rate increase of just 1.9 per cent, the lowest rise in over a decade, but this cost will be offset by a "corresponding concession" that should reduce that figure to 0 per cent.
There are no plans to reduce rates at this time.
Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi said the economic fallout of coronavirus-related closures was "front of mind for councillors".
"We recognise that our community has experienced a number of challenges over the past several years, with a harsh and prolonged drought, the bushfires and now the COVID-19 pandemic," Cr Pennisi said.
"This initiative will provide financial support to our residents through these trying times."
The discount payment period is set to be extended from 30 days to 60 days, with a 7.5 per cent discount on general rates during this time.
Residents can also expect a streamlined payment process, as the council introduces two half-year levies for general rates and utility charges, rather than the general rates due in advance at the start of the financial year and then two separate utility levies.
"We've listened to the feedback that this (was) somewhat confusing and messy," Cr Pennisi said.
Despite the mayor's statement that the budget would be "tight", these changes alone will earn council an estimated $56.95 million over the next financial year, a 2.8 per cent increase from the previous financial year.
This is due to "natural growth and the discontinuing of the urban tank rebate", according to the draft budget.
A spokeswoman for the SDRC said it was challenging for staff to plan for the future, given the uncertainty surrounding border closures, enforced business closures and the corresponding impact on the tourism sector.
Financial projections estimate an operating surplus of $64,000 and another $1.6 million paid from the council's debt.
It is unclear, at this stage, whether the COVID-19 concession will continue into the second half of the 20/21 financial year.
Feedback on the draft budget can be submitted in Person at either the Stanthorpe or Warwick Administration buildings or online at: https://www.sdrc.qld.gov.au/living-here/have-your-say/2020-2021-draft-budget. Community consultation closes at 5pm 12 June 2020. If you have questions regarding the draft budget or how you can submit your feedback please contact Council on 1300 697 372, by emailing email@example.com or by the MySDRC app.