The new budget contains a $78.5 million capital works program, with $4.2 million committed to a road network resheeting program and $5.1 million for security upgrades at the Emerald Airport terminal.
Various improvements will also be made to community infrastructure and facilities, with 242 capital projects planned for completion.
Big-ticket operational items include $1.5 million to prepare a business case for the Capricorn Highway, Codenwarra Road and Opal Street (Vince Lester Bridge) upgrade and another $250,000 in council’s Regional Economic Development Incentive program.
Mayor Kerry Hayes said this 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.
‘Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, council finds itself in unprecedented times. However, we are determined to keep our eye on the big picture and where we want to be in future.’
Mayor Hayes said the budget has been formulated on an average general rate increase of 1.9%.
‘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.’
Mayor Hayes said to keep the general rate rise as low as possible, the discount incentive for on-time payment would be reduced to 5%.
‘It is important to us to be able to continue to give this incentive and we are proud to be one of the few councils that offer this discount on both our general rates and utility charges,’ he said.
‘We will also continue to offer a 50% rebate to pensioners and have introduced a new hardship policy to help those who might be struggling financially in these uncertain times.’
Due to climatic impacts, water consumption charges will increase by an average of 5.6% but there will be no increase in the access charge for residential property owners. The access charge for commercial properties will increase in line with the meter size.
Sewerage charges will increase by 2% per annum 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.
Click here for more information about the Central Highlands Regional Council Budget 2020-2021.