REVEALED: Rate rise, millions spent in city's largest budget
MILLIONS of dollars will be spent to keep pace with population growth in a 'progressive but responsible' budget handed down by Ipswich administrator Greg Chemello this morning.
Rates will rise 1.4 per cent in the $606 million budget, the largest in Ipswich City Council's history.
The rise will result in residents paying on average $19 more in 2019-2020.
Mr Chemello said the rate increase - which compared to last year's 2.5 per cent average increase - amounted to an average increase in total rates and charges of 35 cents per week.
"Council's 2019-20 budget is all about getting on with the job and delivering the essentials for the community," he said.
"It's the biggest budget in Ipswich's history, and core services expected by residents are a top priority.
"This budget prepares council for significant population growth by allocating money to projects essential to future liveability."
The maximum pensioner concession continues up to $245 per year, with an early payment discount of up to $132 per year.
The average residential owner occupier general rate for 2019-2020 will be $1339 - up from $1320 in 2018-2019.
There is no increase to the $361 wheelie bin collection charge or $45 enviroplan levy.
"The City of Ipswich covers an area of more than 1,090 square kilometres. With an area this size, the amount of infrastructure needed to keep this city advancing is significant," Mr Chemello said.
To that end, council's overall budget has increased from $515.3 million to $606.1 million in 2019-20, including $242 million in capital works.
About $34 million will be spent on road upgrades and safety improvements, $29.2 million for road and bridge maintenance and $24.2 million for parks and the environment.
A whopping $111 million will be spent on Nicholas St in the Ipswich CBD redevelopment.
Other projects include the $6.8 million Rosewood Library - jointly funded with a State Government contribution of $2.7 million - and completion of the $38 million Springfield Central Sports Complex, with the council funding $4 million.
Mr Chemello said the council's budget will prioritise important needs of the city.
"It allocates money to projects which will enable council to get the job done and to ensure the city is meeting demands imposed upon us all by rapid growth," he said.
Mr Chemello said economic prosperity and jobs, good roads, an improved public transport system and public infrastructure were important components.
"It is a progressive budget, yet responsible," he said.
"It retains a reasonable surplus, yet addresses compelling needs such as the completion of the Nicholas St development.
"It ensures the council is delivering basic needs such as waste collection, yet looks to produce a complex business case for a Springfield-Ripley-city rail link.
"It addresses long-overdue governance concerns, yet paves the way for future councillors to develop a more healthy, active and engaged community."
Mr Chemello said council had launched a strategy that aimed to "normalise" property rates in Ipswich to be more comparable with other Southeast Queensland councils.
The cornerstone of the strategy is a long term financial plan to progressively hold the city's average property rates increases below the Consumer Price Index until rates "normalisation" is achieved.
Mr Chemello said he felt obliged to provide a recommended path forward for the elected councillors beyond the March 2020 local government elections by laying out a responsible long term financial plan: Savings for ratepayers and residents, a council sticking to its budget, and continued growth across the region, which had been unprecedented in recent years.
"We have a 10-year vision which includes holding average rate increases below CPI for at least the next five, possibly seven years," he said.
"Once average rates are more comparable with other Southeast Queensland councils, rate increases would then be generally set at or around CPI.
"We are setting out a thorough price path for this organisation for the future.
"There will be substantial cost savings in some areas, but I see it more as driving efficiency within this organisation and providing better value for money."