Here's how much more you'll be paying in rates this year
SOMERSET Regional Council has today delivered a $48.2 million budget that strengthens its reputation for sound financial management while building on a long-term vision for the future.
The average general rate increase for owner occupied homes is just 67 cents per week.
Farms and small businesses will see an average rate rise of 2.5 per cent.
Council will continue to offer a prompt payment discount of 15 per cent on general rates and waste charges, representing a minimum saving of $169 per year for owner occupiers with a waste service.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said council had worked hard to maintain a modest rate rise while delivering effective and efficient services for the region's 26,000 residents.
"This is another responsible budget with a clear focus on supporting and enhancing our rural lifestyle by investing in infrastructure while maintaining affordable rates," Cr Lehmann said.
"It includes money for major projects like the upgrade of Gregors Creek Road, the biggest single road infrastructure project funded under the 2019/20 budget, and the Kilcoy Racecourse redevelopment.
"Council is also investing in shared public spaces like parks, libraries, sports grounds, cycle paths and other community and cultural facilities.
"The focus remains on maintaining core services including pest and waste management; environmental initiatives; responsible pet ownership; public lighting, safety and amenities; emergency services; bridge and road renewal; tourism and events; Community Assistance Grants; and a continued commitment to the advancement of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail.
"We are building communities, and council more than doubles your annual rate dollars by securing State and Federal Government grants, investing wisely and staying true to a long-term vision for the Somerset region.
"Along with my fellow councillors Dan Hall, Helen Brieschke, Sean Choat, Cheryl Gaedtke, Otis Ogg and Bob Whalley, I am proud to deliver this budget for the betterment of Somerset, both now and in the future."
Building communities a key focus for council
THE Kilcoy Racecourse upgrade is galloping ahead after Somerset Regional Council committed $1 million to the project in the 2019/20 budget.
The move will benefit business and tourism operators across the region, with annual visitation at the venue tipped to increase from 74,000 people to 100,000.
Council has also allocated $2.5 million to public parks, $1.1 million to cycleways and the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, and $860,000 to tourism and events.
The focus on outdoor recreation continues with council spending almost $1.4 million to acquire land adjacent to Fernvale Sports Park and Kilcoy Racecourse to cater for future growth.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said more than $600,000 would go to managing swimming pools, indoor sports centres and other community facilities.
"About $800,000 will be spent on maintaining and managing community and cultural facilities like our halls and showgrounds," Cr Lehmann said.
"Council will also continue to support sport and recreation-based community events including the Somerset Rail Trail Fun Run or Ride and the Reel Wivenhoe Classic.
"This is a budget that builds communities, and council continues to invest in projects, plans and programs that benefit locals and visitors alike."
Funding to expand digital library programs
THE digital evolution of Somerset Libraries continues with the 2019/20 council budget including more money for e-books, e-audio books and wi-fi.
The move means library members will be able to borrow from an expanding collection of about 5,100 e-books and 1,600 e-audio books, viewing or streaming content on mobile and desktop devices.
Free wi-fi will also continue to be offered at Somerset Libraries branches at Esk, Kilcoy, Lowood and Toogoolawah.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said today's $48.2 million budget would support important library services and programs for people of all ages.
"Modern libraries have moved beyond books, and council continues to invest in programs which make the most of digital technology," Cr Lehmann said.
"This budget includes more than $900,000 for libraries, and ongoing funding for our e-book and e-audio book programs provides library members with the convenience of around-the-clock access to digital content.
"Initiatives like this complement the wide range of programs, workshops, activities and information sessions we already offer at our libraries, making them meeting points and community hubs for people across the Somerset region."
Continued commitment to bridge and road renewal
THE $3.3 million upgrade of Gregors Creek Road is the biggest single road infrastructure project funded under Somerset Regional Council's 2019/20 budget.
Council will contribute $1.6 million to the strengthening and widening project as part of a $9.2 million investment in rural roads.
Another $3.8 million will go to bridge renewal works in areas including Atkinson Dam, Moore, Buaraba and Linville.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said the funding continued council's commitment to improving road safety across the region.
"Gregors Creek Road between Toogoolawah and Kilcoy is becoming an increasingly busy route as it is 6.5km shorter than the highway alternative that connects the two townships," Cr Lehmann said.
"Twenty per cent of Somerset's workforce is employed in the food and transport industries, and council remains focused on ensuring our roads and bridges can carry commercial loads to get produce from paddock to plate.
"More than 60 bridges have already been replaced in Somerset, and council has recently secured funding to replace another two, completing a substantial renewal of the region's bridge network."
More money for Somerset sustainability
FROM rooftops to roads, environmental sustainability continues to be a focus for Somerset Regional Council.
The 2019/20 budget features more than $1 million for environmental initiatives, including the installation of rooftop solar plants at nine key community facilities.
After a successful trial this financial year, council expects to use recycled rubber from waste tyres in road reseal works totalling $900,000.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said an additional $550,000 had been allocated for pest animal and weed management.
"Council is leading an innovative and responsible community-wide approach to environmental sustainability," Cr Lehmann said.
"Supported by State Government funding, rooftop solar plants will be installed at the Lowood and Kilcoy libraries, Fernvale Futures Complex, Kilcoy Visitor Information Centre, Somerset Civic Centre, Kilcoy Memorial Hall, Fernvale Indoor Sports Centre, Kilcoy Aquatic Centre and Kilcoy Showground.
"Improved efficiencies and reduced running costs mean council will recoup the initial investment and the solar plants will pay for themselves in about six years."