RATES CHANGES: When reforms will hit your back pocket
Southern Downs residents have been warned by the council that rates rise is almost inevitable heading towards the new financial year, accompanied by sweeping changes to state legislation.
The Queensland Government announced on Friday morning that all councils would be able to change rates and charges multiple times in the 2021-22 financial year, rather than the one-time limit previously enforced.
The government stated the move, which was also in place during the current financial year, was an extension of COVID measures because “the pandemic was not over yet”.
Only months after the Southern Downs Regional Council made the decision to reverse the COVID-19 rates freeze, resulting in a 0.95 per cent increase, residents could again be looking at another increase heading into the next financial year.
While the legislation changes would allow SDRC to move rates up or down in response to economic pressures, Mayor Vic Pennisi cautioned residents should expect an increase in the coming months.
“We haven’t been officially advised on how (law changes) are going to work yet, but my understanding is it’s about flexibility if something like COVID were to happen again,” Cr Pennisi said.
“I’ve been in local government for almost 20 years, and the only time there’s been no increase in rates was the first six months of last year … to try and assist with COVID recovery.
“There’s always an adjustment in some way, shape, or form. The question is not whether there’s going to be an adjustment, but what the adjustment is going to be.”
With the July deadline for a new budget quickly approaching, the mayor said replacing ageing infrastructure would remain a top priority across all departments.
“The infrastructure cliff that we have hit right across Queensland, not just the Southern Downs, is a conversation we need to have at every tier of government,” Cr Pennisi said.
“They’re big conversations, and irrespective of whether COVID is there or something else, we have to keep our core business going …$500 million of assets under the ground that you can’t see, there’s going to be some issues among them.
“We can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore them forever.”