Council defends its 4.95% rates hike

NORTH Burnett Regional Council Mayor Rachel Chambers has defended the council's decision to impose a 4.95% rate rise on North Burnett residents.

Cr Chambers said the council had followed advice and legislation they had to abide by.

"There is a simplistic view that council just chooses to whack a rate rise on residents, this couldn't be further from the truth," Cr Chambers said.

"Not one councillor wants to give a rate rise; I mean seriously why would we.

"Do we enjoy the flack, the comments, the tension, the strain on our public, not at all, but we all signed up for a job and we have to abide by the jobs rules.

"We have legislation, and are monitored to make sure we abide by this, to do all we can to remain sustainable."

Cr Chambers said the rates, which have gone up from a minimum $676 to $709 for a residential property on less than 1ha, could have been higher.

"This year Queensland Treasury modelled that our rates rise by 5% to take us out of deficit by 2020, something extremely important to government," she said.

"We did everything possible to take it below the increase that was set, even if it was reduced fractionally.

"Elected council absolutely understands and appreciates people's feelings towards a rate rise however rest assured in the knowledge that we did the best we could this year."

Cr Chambers said there were other factors that also lead to the increase.

"The other factor working against us this year was the DERM amalgamation of properties," she said.

"This has allowed people with properties, in the same name, to amalgamate them and thus has decreased our rateable properties.

"This change alone has equated to an increase in 1% on rates this financial year.

"The answer to lower rates is to increase our population, decrease our expenses and increase our grants from state and federal level; Council is actively working on all of these areas."

Cr Chambers said the almost 40% increase to road funding in the budget was about making roads safer.

"It was made clear during the election that roads are a problem and that the majority of rate payers wanted roads to be addressed and actioned in a timely manner," she said.

"The focus will be on bringing gravel roads up to an acceptable standard for safety and improving our roads that provide economic value to our region.

"This includes properties that supply our horticulture and agriculture industries throughout the entire North Burnett region.

"The budget also focuses on beautification of our towns, effective communication with the public and improving efficiencies are high on the priorities of council as these were the three major areas in which residents wanted change, council needs to get these basics right."

Cr Chambers also addressed concerns about rates between the region and costal areas."As for our rates being similar to those on the coast yet they have better conveniences and facilities, there is no disagreement from council that this is the case in some instances," she said.

"The biggest difference between (us and) places like Fraser Coast is housing affordability.

"The median sale price in the last 12 months being $152,000 in the North Burnett and $300,000 in Fraser Coast."

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