BREAKING: Gympie ratepayers to feel the pain in $141m budget
GYMPIE'S property owners are facing a rate hike higher than CPI - an average of 3.91 per cent increase across the region - under Gympie Regional Council's proposed $141 million budget.
The proposal, which will be voted on by councillors this week, will slug almost a third of the region's residential ratepayers with a 3.37 per cent increase on their rates.
Other residential areas will have rate rises of about 3 per cent, well above the country's March CPI of 2.2 per cent.
In terms of hard cash, more than 17,000 of the region's ratepayers will pay between $0-$50 more on their next rate bill.
The news is better for residential rural properties, though; with no increase to be applied to rural residential properties and primary producers.
This follows two years of higher than average rate rises for these areas.
Water consumption costs will also rise 7.5 per cent, but this will not kick in until the start of next year.
However the CPI-breaking rate rise will not bring balance to the force.
The council is still expected to finish the 2020-21 year with a $3.45 million operating loss.
Acting chief financial officer David Lewis said this had been clawed back from the $7.96 million hole originally forecast.
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This had been achieved by shaving a few parts of the organisation.
"We've taken out a lot of vacant positions,' Mr Lewis said.
"We've then reviewed all of our operating costs: consultants, contractors, our media and marketing groups, all of our operating projects we've taken it further - I think it's about nearly $3 million out of that area."
The budget will not return to surplus until 2021-22, when it is expected to be $1.4 million in the black.
It will then remain in surplus but never higher than $3.11 million in any given year.
Cash reserves are expected to rise from $27 million next year to $38.98 million in 2024.
Mr Lewis said one of the key points behind the need to find balance now, rather than in small increments over several years, was the ever-growing black hole in operational costs.
"One of the issues was the previous budget shows a deficit of around $6 million, but in reality there were a number of cost saving initiatives built into that budget so the underlying deficit was about $10 million," Mr Lewis said.
"That budget showed us with insufficient cash to maintain our operations; so if we wanted to maintain our workforce and keep our capital works delivery going - but still run those deficits - we would run out of cash."
"We're not like the Federal Government; we can't just print dollars.
"We're like a household, we can only spend what we've got.
The looming impact of COVID - and the unknown date it will be felt - factored into the council's decision making, too.
"We really don't know the true impact," council CEO Shane Gray said.
"It could hit next year, it could hit the year after.
"We need to be responsible."
Mr Lewis said the decisions made for this year's proposed budget were designed to give long-term confidence.
"We don't want to be looking over our shoulder wondering where the next dollar is going to come from," Mr Lewis said.
"We want to have certainty, and allow the council to focus on its priorities."
The budget will be presented to councillors at Wednesday's special meeting.