Unpacking a record-breaking Rockhampton Council budget
ROCKHAMPTON Regional Council's 2019-20 budget contains record spending on capital works.
Addressing council, Mayor Margaret Strelow said "three pillars” underpinned the spending in the final budget before council elections next year.
The pillars were fairness for rural ratepayers, reducing the burden on rural ratepayers, community and sporting groups, and bidding to keep rates as low as possible.
Cr Srelow said the budget was a result of constant councillor workshopping and community engagement.
"I was prepared to 'stop the clock' on the budget and go back to square one and start again if there was a strong message from the community,” she said.
"The responses overwhelmingly showed that the majority thought we had the balance right.
"It had been a number of years since we have run community consultation on the budget and we thought it was time to check in again.”
A total capital expenditure of $149.3 million, with $66.2 million funded by capital grants, has been put towards works.
The South Rockhampton Flood Levee attracted $36.6 million dollars of funding combined with a subsidy of $50million in the budget period.
The flood mitigation works are already under way.
A $34 million spend on the art gallery construction, with a subsidy of $23.6 million, also featured in the council's budget.
An allocation of $4.8 million was made for the expansion of the Gracemere sewage treatment plant, as well as $4.7 million for works from the intersection of Alexandra St and Richardson Rd to Moores Creek Rd.
Rockhampton Airport will get $4.67 million for works and upgrades of security scanners, as well as an upgrade of air-conditioning with an added $980,000 of government subsidies.
Other notable works included in the budget include:
- Quay Street to Gavial Creek Bridge renewal - $4.2 million.
- Annual road reseal program - $4.2 million.
- Wackford St drainage improvements (subsidy $1.8 million) - $3.8 million.
- Solar energy at Glenmore water treatment plant - $2.65 million.
- From intersection of Macquarie St and Foster St to Douglas St - $2.3 million.
- Gravel Rd re-sheeting - $2 million.
- Fitzroy Riverbank protection works, funded by Works for Queensland Grant - $1.75 million.
- Capping and closure of Gracemere landfill - $1.3 million.
- Riverbank Playground amenities and access upgrade, funded by Works for Queensland Grant - $1.09 million.
- New footpaths, funded by Works for Queensland Grant - $550,000.
Operational expenditure figures by key areas gave departmental breakdowns of council spending for the budget period.
Fitzroy River Water received the lion's share of funding with 23 per cent of expenditure allocated. Roads, stormwater and footpaths took 19 per cent.
Other large departmental spends included governance and corporate services at 12per cent, and 8 per cent each for operational expenditure oncommunities and facilities, and waste and recycling services.
The 2019-20 budget also delivered the seventh consecutive operating surplus and provided additional funding for events such as the RockyNats car festival planned for next year.
An overall residential ratepayer increase of 2.8 per cent has been implemented by Rockhampton Regional Council but rates remain among the lowest in the state.
Rural rates for properties considered agricultural, farming and other rural have been frozen at 2018-19 levels in a relief effort from council.
Additional concessions to pensioners, community groups and sporting clubs have also been implemented in the budget.
Cr Strelow thanked members of the community who took part in the trial 2019-20 budget community consultation.
Workshops carried out before yesterday's budget adoption showed "overwhelming support from participants”.
About 50 members of the community were invited to take part, either by random selection or because they had been identified as a business, sporting club or community group stakeholder.
Cr Strelow said participants were then "walked through the draft budget” over the course of two hours before they provided their feedback across council's areas of spending.
"Budgets are not a simple thing to put together or understand without the context and that's why we held these workshops,” Cr Strelow said.
"We walked people through council's financials and the process of putting the budget together and then asked them for feedback on specific areas to see if we had the balance right.
"From Advance Rockhampton to playground renewals, park mowing schedules and waste services, people were shown what was being spent and what the outcomes were and were then given the opportunity to tell us if they thought it was good enough.
"The method we used was proposed by the community engagement team in line with best practice recommended by the national community engagement body, IAP2.”
In the past, community budget feedback was gathered through surveys, but an RRC spokesperson said the new approach had mitigated shortcomings including human error and a lack of understanding of budget material among community members.
"The benefit for doing these small focus groups is that people are given the opportunity to really understand how an almost quarter of a billion dollar budget is put together,” Cr Strelow said.
"To just do a survey with numbers around spending without the context would be a disservice to everyone as it misses the opportunity of explaining the cause-and-effect relationship.”
A council spokesperson said the community-first approach would be used again in future budgets.