Brad Carter
Brad Carter File Image

Rate relief for Rocky

ROCKHAMPTON Regional Council is aiming to keep this year's rate rise below 5%, and possibly as low as 3%, Mayor Brad Carter said yesterday.

Cr Carter said council recognised the crippling living costs hurting members of the community.

For ratepayers like the owners of Paddy Go Easy, Peter Gunton and Kath Murton, and pensioners Jim and Marion Lawler who are battling soaring electricity, fuel, motoring, food and other costs as well as trying to get back on their feet following this year's floods, Cr Carter's words will be warmly welcomed.

The mayor said the council would work to bring down a budget “about half” of the Local Government Association of Queensland's suggested 7.5% hike and more in line with the lead of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast councils, which have set targets of 3.5%.

“Our position is similar. It sounds like we're all saying the same thing,” Cr Carter said, responding to statements made by the southern councils.

“I'm not able to give a precise percentage rise at the moment ... I would say we are looking between the 3% to 5% mark.”

Ratepayers have endured three successive rate rises averaging about 8% a year.

A 3.5% rise on average rates of $2097 would equate to an increase of about $73.40 a year – just over $1.40 a week.

This target is well down on the initial planned rise in the council's long-term financial strategy. However, Cr Carter said it could still achieve its aim of starting to reduce its deficit by 2014.

He said council would need to achieve greater operational efficiencies, reduce capital works and support for some services and subsidies would be reconsidered.

“We are very conscious of the impact on our community in terms of the impact of the floods and the increase of other costs such as increases in bank interest rates, car registration, electricity and State Government charges,” Cr Carter said.

“I don't feel local government should be the last bastion of government that has to absorb all of these pressures, but our community is suffering and we are doing our best to reduce the increase on rates.”

He said it wasn't only residents hurting, but tourism and business operators had been hard hit by the floods.

Council's budget position was not expected to be greatly affected by the funding provided by the reconstruction authority to repair flood-damaged infrastructure.

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