Ipswich City Council has announced a 2.75 per cent average rates rise as part of a $603.4 million annual budget, which will see a detailed three-year capital works program in a first for the city.
The general rate for 2020-21 for the average residential owner occupier will be $1,375. The increase in the total rate bill will be 98 cents per week, around the cost of a cup of coffee a month.
Council will continue to offer a generous pensioner concession up to $245 per year.
Council has maintained the commercial rate at less than the residential rate, a rise of 2.4 per cent for 2020-21, which affects about 2,000 properties overall. This has also been impacted to some degree because of the result of the movement in the State Government’s property valuations.
Mayor Teresa Harding, delivering her first budget as the 51st Mayor of Ipswich, said the rates rise was necessary as council felt the impacts of a slowing economy brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the wasteful expenditure of the previous councils.
“There is no escaping that COVID-19 has hurt the bottom line of family budgets, businesses, community groups and governments. The private sector is hurting, and all levels of government must share the pain,” she said.
“But, we know we cannot afford to have more job losses in our city. This budget is about sustaining jobs, and creating jobs locally.
“I’m deeply, deeply sorry to have to ask you to share this burden. Through this budget, we’re asking everyone to do their small bit, so collectively we can make a big difference to our city’s future.
“Today, I am announcing that councillors and executives have also committed to share the burden. Through my mayoral minute, councillors have agreed not to adopt a pay-rise this financial year and the executive have agreed to do the same; passing on the savings to deliver services to the community and relief to those in need.”
Mayor Harding said council had allocated $850,000 to support businesses, community and sporting organisations to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
“We will continue to waive and refund some fees and charges related to groups who are facing extreme hardship through to the end of September at an estimated cost of $250,000,” she said.
“The COVID Relief and Recovery Package is an express demonstration of our moral obligation to ensure those most affected have access to the support they need in these unprecedented times.”
Mayor Harding said her new council would deliver a $232 million capital works program in the next financial year, with $124 million allocated to completing the Ipswich Central redevelopment.
“We have committed $26 million to road maintenance and rehabilitation which will add to the amenity and liveability of the city,” she said.
“This will be put towards filling 5,000 potholes, repairing and resurfacing a network of over 1,500km of sealed roads and about 260km of gravel road maintenance, and making sure more than 26,000 streetlights are shining bright across the region.”
Mayor Harding said the environment is also critical to Ipswich and almost $10 million has been set aside in the budget for the beautification and maintenance of approximately 400 parks and 219 nature reserves, plus the upkeep of our magnificent sports fields over 40 sites.
“We have also allocated $17 million in this budget for reliable and cost effective domestic waste collection services to households throughout Ipswich,” she said.
The mayor said council had to focus on infrastructure going forward as we continue to welcome 15 more people moving to Ipswich every day. The city’s population climbed by 1,400 in the first quarter of this year to almost 230,000.
“In a time where industry needs a boost to keep trades and services in business and people employed, we are investing $232 million in capital works and infrastructure and our new Buy Ipswich procurement policy will further enhance our ability to secure local jobs and keep the Ipswich economy ticking,” she said.
“We’re also investing in strategic transport infrastructure to ease congestion and help people get to work, school or home safer and quicker. Our $13 million investment will improve connectivity across our city and provide a boost to productivity.”
Taking aim at previous council spending, Mayor Harding said “maladministration and misuse of public monies will not be a feature of this organisation under our watch”. She said the new Transparency and Integrity Hub to be launched this week would ensure council accountability.
“The 2020-21 Budget will ensure we recover economically from recent events and continue to deliver the best to our ratepayers and residents,” she said.
“It meets the current and future needs of the city and sets the tone for the next four years; a considered and responsive budget, and a council willing to make difficult and responsible decisions for the overall and long-term public benefit.”