Rate rise just the beginning: Cr Broad

OUTSPOKEN Rockhampton City Councillor John Broad yesterday warned rate payers that if they thought a 5.8% rate rise for 2005-2006 was tough, they had better hold on to their wallets over the next few years.

He said finance projections presented on Monday showed that, providing the council reduced operating costs by $1m per year, it would still be necessary to increase rates by an average of about 3.5% over and above the inflation rate (currently 2.6%) for the next three years.

"This means that ratepayers by 2008/2009 will be paying anything from 12% to 14% more in annual rates (without allowing for inflation) compared to the current rate.

"This scenario is all the more appalling when one considers that the recently-adopted strategy to reduce operating costs includes many of the recommendations brought to the council table by the evaluation committee and individual councillors several years ago.''

He said the large amount of "ongoing wasteful and extravagant expenditure'' identified years ago had simply not been addressed.

"It is such a shame to think that many of the opportunities opened up by the probability of dollar-for-dollar funding from the State and Federal governments may not be able to be accessed because we may not be able to meet our share of the expense without putting rates up to completely unacceptable levels in order to cover the interest and redemption on an ever- increasing loans burden,'' he said.

"We have a challenge ahead of us, and if we rise to this challenge and do what we know we have to do, we may even avoid the need to increase our rates to such an unacceptable level.''

Mayor Margaret Strelow yesterday declined to respond to Cr Broad's comments.

However on Tuesday she said that the council was committed to responsible spending.

"The council really does understand that the community is looking to us to show restraint,'' she said.

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