LIVINGSTONE Shire Council’s 2018-19 Budget is the sixth budget this Council has brought down since Livingstone residents regained their independence in 2014.
A culmination of months of extensive workshops between Councillors, the senior management team and key departmental officers, this budget is both prudent and financially responsible in all respects.
I would also like to acknowledge the exceptional input of our very capable Deputy Mayor Nigel Hutton in helping shape this budget. In his capacity as Chairman the Planning, Finance, Innovation and Business Excellence Advisory Committee as well as the leadership role in Chairing the Audit, Risk and Business Improvement Committee Cr Hutton’s contribution has been outstanding.
While the budget has an overarching focus on consolidation and long-term financial sustainability, it is also very much focussed on maintaining Council’s ‘whole of Shire’ commitment to the highest possible levels of affordable service delivery for our community.
Building on the solid foundation of previous budgets this budget will also ensure Council can continue to appropriately maintain its assets, and be well positioned to continue to deliver the necessary future capital works and facilities our community needs and expects.
In bringing down this budget it is appropriate to reflect on the necessary and deliberate strategies of previous budgets. Those strategies were focussed on regaining the Shire’s economic momentum lost through the forced amalgamation process, meeting the significant cost burden imposed on our community in regaining our independence and the subsequent imperatives of reconstruction of existing and major new infrastructure following Tropical Cyclone Marcia.
In taking a well-considered and pro-active strategic approach Council was able to set a clear vision for our future and secure over $120 million in State and Federal funding to help deliver more than $227 million of critical trunk infrastructure and major job-creating economic development projects.
This is an outstanding result given the total combined increase in overall borrowings to deliver those extraordinary $227 million in capital works over the 4 year period has been only $9 million.
This is remarkable achievement well above and beyond what would be considered possible for a Council of our size, especially when put in the context of working through the combined challenges and impacts of de-amalgamation and five declared weather events that have impacted on our Shire.
Projects completed or still in train have ranged from major strategic infrastructure like Panorama Drive Statue Bay reconstruction and waste-water facilities along with tourism infrastructure, foreshore and town centre redevelopments in both Yeppoon and Emu Park, Centenary of Anzac Precinct, The Gateway Business and Industry Precinct, Capricorn Coast Homemakers Centre, a dedicated Disaster Management and Community Resilience Training Hub as well as major integrated sports facilities at Barmaryee and Emu Park, and shire-wide community playground, recreation and parkland upgrades.
With the economic and community benefits of these major projects now progressively flowing through, Council’s focus on consolidation through the 2018-19 budget is both timely and well-considered.
Council’s capital program for the 2018-19 budget is $48.3 million once again with a significant proportion amounting to $14.6 million secured from State and Federal funding sources.
Major projects on track to be delivered during 2018-19 include:
• Yeppoon Sewerage Treatment Plant Augmentation - $14.1m
• Emu Park Village & Foreshore Revitalisation - $2.9m
• Capricorn Coast Memorial Gardens - $2.9m
• 2.9klm shared pathway along Scenic Highway – $2.3m
• Completion of civil works for the Homemaker Centre - $1.8m
• Roundabout construction at Old Rockhampton and Barmaryee Road - $1.6m
• Sealing of 2.1km Svendsen Road - $1.6m
• Upgrade parking facilities at St Christopher’s Chapel road in conjunction with TMR planned upgrades at the Nerimbera Boat Ramp - $1.2m
• Upgrade of St Christopher’s Chapel Road to 8m to suit Type 1 road trains - $1.0m
• Signalised intersection on Taranganba Road to improve school safety - $1.2m
• Renewal of unsealed rural gravel roads - $1.1m
• Rural sealed pavement renewal program - $1.0m
• Replace and widening Daly Creek bridge - $850,300
• Thirteen concrete rural floodway upgrades across the Shire - $774,244
• Flood mitigation works for Yeppoon Creek outlets - $773,000
• Reseal urban road program - $1.0m
• Yeppoon Town Centre Smart Precinct and Lighting project - $895,000
In total, just over $19million has been set aside in the capital budget for roads and associated transport infrastructure with a further $6.5m planned for maintenance programs.
The 2018-19 budget will continue to support and facilitate major economic stimulus projects, business development and networking as well as supporting and encouraging existing and new sporting, cultural and festival events that grow our local economy and jobs
This year Council finalised and delivered a comprehensive Economic Development Plan for the Shire in consultation with local business and industry sectors. The budget will support and facilitate the objectives of the plan and provide continuing support for previous initiatives like the business E-newsletter, “For Business and Investment” Council website, digital economy investment, supporting local start-up businesses and entrepreneurs, Capricorn Coast Joblink and economic modelling services. Council will also continue to support local businesses in making funding applications to other levels of government to assist their businesses to grow with the flow-on that success provides in creating new jobs.
These initiatives will continue to complement Council’s on-going support in the areas of tourism promotion and economic development through its funding commitments to Capricorn Enterprise and initiatives like Council’s highly successful ‘place-making’ strategy.
Livingstone 2018-19 Budget Focus On More Equitable Distribution of Rates and Charges.
This year Livingstone Shire Council undertook a comprehensive review of its rating methodology in order to refine the equitable distribution of rates and charges.
Councils are required to raise revenue based on both land valuation as well as the land’s capacity to generate revenue. In line with these principles the review recommended the introduction of ‘non-owner occupied residential categories’ similar to those introduced by many other local governments throughout Queensland.
The recommendation was reinforced by the fact that up to 27% (or more than 4,300) of residential properties in Livingstone are currently ‘non-owner occupied’. These properties are generally investment or rental properties where the land can generate a margin on rental returns.
In considering this new category Council has been mindful to ensure its introduction does not have a major impact on property owners. To achieve this General Rates, Utility Services and Separate Charges increases will average 4.5% or approximately $3.19 per week (63 cents more than average owner occupied premises).
In comparison the average increase on combined General Rates, Utility Services and Separate Charges across owner-occupied urban, large and rural residential properties will be 3.3% or approximately $2.56 per week.
Commercial/Light Industrial Categories:
The majority of commercial/light industrial properties will benefit from another significant recommendation of the rating review which will see the introduction of valuation banding for commercial/light industrial categories.
Once again these recommendations which were aimed at achieving more equitable distribution of rates and charges have resulted in comparatively lower increases and in some cases rate decreases.
General rates across commercial/light industrial categories will range from decreases of up to 5% for properties with valuations less than $400,000 and 2.9% increases for properties where valuations are above $400,000.
Retail Warehouse, Business/Shopping Complex or Outdoor Sales Category
This new category has been created for larger scale business on land with an area greater than 400m2 and where the dominant use or intended use is a retail warehouse, business/shopping complex, or outdoor sales. These properties will have an average combined General Rates, Utility Services and Separate Charges increase of 6.96%.
Major shopping Complexes in turn will have combined General Rates, Utility Services and Separate Charges increases ranging from 8.43%.
Major Tourism Category
Major tourism facilities will have a combined average increase of 9.1% to reflect the significant funding Council has invested into new tourism infrastructure. Island tourism Categories will increase by 5% while most other smaller tourism operations will increase as per the commercial/light industrial rates.
Beef Cattle Production and Other Rural
Increases in other land use categories include Beef Cattle Production and Other Rural primary production properties which will have a combined General Rate and Separate Charge increase of approximately 3.9%.
Heavy/Noxious and Extractive Categories
The relatively high-impact land uses of the Heavy/Noxious and Extractive categories will see average combined General Rates, Utility Services and Separate Charge increases of 13.61% and 12.58% respectively.
Utility Service and Separate Levy Charges have all increased by 3.9%, the exception is the Environmental Levy which has increase by $4.90 (8.2) to $65.00. A new Disaster Response Levy of $20.00 has also been introduced help improve the Shire’s disaster response capability and community awareness activities.
To partially offset rate increases for eligible pensioners on fixed incomes, Council has maintained the maximum rebate of $280, which is addition to the $200 available from the State Government for eligible concession card holders. Livingstone continues to provide a higher rebate than most other comparable councils.
Financial Position and Borrowings
With the significant investment Council has already made in the areas of job creating projects and major trunk infrastructure of the past five budgets there are no new planned borrowings in this budget or future budgets until 2024-25. This will see debt decrease from a maximum of $85.3million in 2017-18, to $80.5million this financial year and forecast to reduce by approximately 69% to $27 million by 2027-28.
On another positive note the total value of the community’s net assets has further increased over the past 12 months to a current value of $949million and forecast to reach approximately $1.15 billion by 2028.
The budget’s positive long-term forecast is a direct reflection of Council’s pro-active commitment in supporting and implementing the recommended streamlining of organisational structures to realise greater operational efficiencies.
These measures have seen an improved operating position for 2018-19 financial year of approximately $4m and have put Council on track to deliver operating surpluses from the 2019-20 budget, one year earlier than previous budget forecasts.
In commending the 2018-19 Budget for adoption, I would like to once again acknowledge the excellent collaborative efforts of our Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Finance Department, and Executive Leadership Team in assisting Council in delivering a responsible budget that will continue to both underpin the liveability and strong economic growth our Shire and region needs.