Central Highlands Regional Council has revealed its 2020-2021 budget.
Central Highlands Regional Council has revealed its 2020-2021 budget.

REVEALED: Council budget includes rates increase

CENTRAL Highlanders will see increased rates to allow council to cover bills through uncertain times, “just like a household”.

Central highlands Regional Council revealed its 2020-2021 budget yesterday which includes a 1.9 per cent rates increase.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, council finds itself in unprecedented times,” Mayor Kerry Hayes said, “however, we are determined to keep our eye on the big picture and where we want to be in future.”

The first budget of the new council was formulated on the average general rates increase.

“Rates are council’s main source of income and, while making a profit is not our goal, just like a household we have bills to pay and costs to recover,” he said.

“A lot has changed in our economy recently, but the cost of delivering the 60-plus core services we all rely upon each and every day has not.

“A small increase now will help balance the books and avoid larger rates rises in the future.”

Fast facts on the 2020-2021 budget:

  • Total budget is $224.1 million
  • General rates increased by 1.9 per cent
  • $78.5m capital works program
  • No increase in waste charges or residential water access charge
  • $58.5m operational spend for road, water and sewerage
  • $25.3m for community recreation and facilities
  • $383,217 community grants program

Mr Hayes said to keep the general rate rise as low as possible, the discount incentive for on-time payment would be reduced to five per cent.

The $224.1m budget includes a $78.5m capital works program with $1.4m committed to the Blackwater Skatepark upgrade and a $5.95m road network resheeting program.

It has committed $5.1m to the Emerald Airport terminal expansion and about $7m for the reconstruction of Lilyvale Rd and Grasstree Rd embankment.

The budget also includes $146,250 for youth programs and $25.3m for community recreation and facilities including parks, sporting and show grounds and swimming pools.

Central Highlands Regional Council 2020-2021 Capital Works budget.
Central Highlands Regional Council 2020-2021 Capital Works budget.

Mayor Kerry Hayes said it was a responsible budget demonstrating council’s continued commitment to creating vibrant, liveable regional communities.

“Budgets are always about trade-offs,” he said.

“For us, this means finding a happy medium between financial responsibility, maintaining community service levels and adapting to the current economic environment.”

Water charges have increased by $29 a year and sewerage charges have increased by 1.93 per cent “to help maintain the revenue needed to sustain long-term sewerage services”.

Waste management charges will not increase. The waste levy will continue to be collected on behalf of the state government for waste that goes to landfills and payments from the state government will continue to ensure the levy has no direct impact on households.

More than $8 million in capital grants have also been included in the budget to fund a range of projects including the Emerald Saleyards Spelling Yard, Emerald Retro Street Kindergarten Redevelopment and road upgrades across the region.

This years rates increase is less than those seen in 2019-20 or 2018-19 budgets.

Visit council’s website for more information on the 2020-2021 budget.