Tuesday 29 June 2010

I told you so

One month ago I blogged that Cairns Regional Council would up your rates, along with a number of other services, by 5%.

A week later, the Cairns Post, and various other media, tried to clamber over the prediction, but Council went into lockdown, preferring to gather time so they could muster their own explanation together (read spin).

Today they did exactly that.

This morning I was going to head into the high-security, all secret pre-budget meeting chinwag for media types, to trawl over numbers and get a free scone along with freshly-squeezed imported orange juice, but a nice extended breakie on the nard became a more enjoyable way to start the day.

I said last month, in light of a massive 13% electricity rise heading towards our letterboxes in four weeks time, like an out of control privatised Queensland Rail locomotive, on top of 11% unemployment, this rate rise will have a compounding effect on so many.

Council says today's rise puts Cairns and the region in a "sound future... delivering one of the lowest rate rises across the state of 5%."

Mayor Val Schier outlined her Council's fiscal plan that is "ambitious in its drive to improve the business of running Council while saving ratepayers’ money by applying strategies that do not involve a reduction in services."

“Council is in a tough position and deliberations on this year’s budget were long and arduous. We have shaved $11 million off the operating budget and worked hard to come up with a plan to maintain a high level of service for residents while keeping the necessary rate rise as low as possible,” Mayor Schier says.

“Our capital works budget is $110 million and despite paring it back, works will be focused on revitalising existing infrastructure and the construction of projects important to the region’s future.”

Over the next year, Council will spend $800,000 for the Port Douglas waterfront, $3 million for the Edmonton Multi-Purpose Centre, $4 million to restore the Sugarworld waterslides and $4.3 million on the Botanic Gardens visitor centre. $900,000 will be spent on festivals and events. On top of that, the Cleaner Seas Levy and sewer access charges will be combined and rise by 5%.

We will also see a rise in residential water charges of 5%, or seven cents per 1000 litres. Commercial water usage will not rise, aimed to assist businesses following the economic downturn. Most other Council fees will rise by 4%

Tomorrow morning I'm having a cuppa with Council CEO Lyn Russell. I wonder what we'll talk about? I might bring my own spare change.


Paul said...

Add to that hidden speed cameras which have proven so profitable for the thieves that they've rolled them out everywhere possible. Reminds me of the days when the bankrupt and incompetent Kirner Government in Victoria rolled out speed cameras in low-limit areas everywhere they could under the guise of "safety".

KitchenSlut said...

I think the 5% rise is a reasonable outcome in comparison to increases in comparable government services elsewhere!This is not to defend these general government services increases which deserve attention as evidence of bureaucratic bloating!

Some of us who suffered 50% increases successively for each of two years under the KB regime(to double the general rate in two years)are a bit confused by the angst here?

The rate distortions of those KB decisions for political 'middle-class-welfare-bludging' reasons have still not been reversed! The average suburban property owner needs to understand that rate increases well over 5% would be needed to restore fairness and an appropriate broad based rate structure!

From the small end of town said...

Firstly, sorry that I don't have anything nasty to say about Val.
Secondly, considering the current global economic climate affecting our economy and the added economic woes of the Qld Government they have done well to contain the rate increase. Wait and see how well other amalgamated councils have fared with their budgets before criticising CRC.

Imagine if, under these circumstances KB was still mayor :-(

Bob Dobolina said...

Mike, not wanting to make you busier than you are, but you might be the man for the job here. I've been up and down the coast a fair bit over the last 3 years, and notice that Townsville, Mackay and Rocky all seem to have had higher rate increases than Cairns at budget time. I don't have firm facts but I'm fairly sure this is true.

The Cairns Post doesn't report like that though. In Rocky recently for example, the rates were meant to rise by 7%, but the headline on the front page read 'Rocky rates still less than Mackay'(who were to rise by 10&).

Amazing difference in the angle they take on their local council. The Rocky Morning Bulletin promotes a very positive feel. If Cairns put theirs up by 7% there would be outrage.

Rae @ Yorkeys said...

Val said "There was, perhaps, a bit of fat in there".
Pardon my mirth, but I wonder if this "bit of fat" was the $11m shaved from the operating budget?
That's a lot of free lunches (or phone expenses)

Rae @ Yorkeys

Taboodsi said...

Looking at the online Post version of the Cairns Budget story you only have to read the comments section to get a picture of the intellectual giants that read that rag. Someone should start a Bogan's comments from the CP blog similar to Not The Cairns Post or John Mackenzie Hillbilly Watch. It would be quite entertaining (and just a little scary to think they walk amongst us.)

Destiny said...

Many of us will be forever grateful for the fat Val trimmed from council merely by getting elected.
Drove through Townsville today and listened to their budget on the radio - rates up 3% for owner occupiers and up to 18% for others - water charges only now being introduced - $400+ starting fee and 65c a kilolitre - according to one councillor brings their rate increases over 3 years to about 30%.

Thaddeus said...

ROFL, Destiny above. I have rellies in Townsville and they are spewin'.

Leigh Dall'Osto said...

Nobody likes a smart-alec. Even if they are right!! Hehehe....

h. bosch said...

$11M shaved from a $320M budget, wow, that's a real belt tightener!

would the higher rates increases in townsville, etc have anything to do with them still not having implemented the cleaner seas project?

or the car race in townsville? or the subsidised cowboys outfit?

Alison Alloway said...

The blow-out in the cost of the Cleaner Seas Initiative (entered into by the Byrne Council in December 2007) was the major reason behind the large increase in the first budget brought down by the current Schier Council. (I'm perplexed as to why this initiative was ever given entirely to Council (and ratepayers) to pay for. Surely there should have been some Federal and/or State Government responsibility???) Why did the costs blow out so much? Was there FRAUD involved on the part of the private enterprises involved, like there was with the Federal school building projects?
Sadly, most people just don't want to know.

hieronymus bosch said...

alison, i think the state govt did help subsidise the greener seas initiative but have since pulled out cos they're broke, leaving the entire burden to those coastal cities who didn't start earlier... could be wrong tho...

as for the blow out, well, look at the muppets at the helm, it's easy to waste other people's money

Alison Alloway said...

Thanks hieronymous. I am well aware of which private companies were involved in the public/private partnership to deliver the Clean Seas initiative and who was sitting at the helm. It may well be that Cairns ratepayers were rorted out of their hard earned cash...who knows for certain? Public/private partnerships have a suspiciously consistent habit of going "over-estimates".

hieronymus bosch said...

so enlighten me, my dearie...

i know cec (give us our money back, yeah, sure) were involved in it all... who else?

Alison Alloway said...

hieronymous, they are all listed on the appropriate website for anyone to see. Ditto, some of Australia's economists have also published interesting commentary on the behaviour of public/private partnerships.