Media Statement by Mayor Keith Campbell - Road Audit and Business Analysis Reveals More Money Needed To Fix Road Complaints
The financial sustainability of the South Burnett Regional Council has been a primary focus for this term of Council, in particular the issue of accessing more funds to undertake road maintenance and renewal.
The necessity to do this stems from ongoing issues related to Council’s roads and the need to invest more money to get on top of the existing problems that cause continuing ratepayer unhappiness. The preliminary calculation is that at least $10 million dollars would be needed to correct the unsealed road network problems if all work was to be undertaken during the next couple of years. Whether this can be achieved is yet to be fully scoped. The figure of $10m excludes the sealed (bitumen surfaces) backlog which is currently being evaluated.
This has caused Council to take a further look at its operational expenditure to secure savings and efficiencies so that these monies can be reinvested into the road network. A number of operational changes to reduce expenditure have been made in recent years culminating in a reduction of 15 staff over the last 9 months which will provide savings of approximately $1million in the upcoming 18/19 budget.
The reality is that further savings still need to be found if we are to improve on the current level of service provided on our road network. Currently Council provides funding support to community organisations across a large number of areas and activities such as:
- Concession on Rates and Charges $323,400
- Community Grants Program $241,500
- Hall Hire Fee Remission / Council Community Events upwards of $50,000
Over the past year Council has reviewed and made changes to this community support funding except in the area of concession on rates and charges.
Councillors now consider that this practice needs to be reviewed so that support is reduced and groups make a contribution toward costs that are currently being paid for by the rest of the ratepayers for example water, waste water and waste collection. Letters will be forwarded to each impacted group providing details of the changes proposed for the 18/19 budget.
In most cases, groups will still receive a remission on their General Rate, Environmental Levey, Waste Management Levy, Community Rescue Levy, Road Levy and State Fire Levy. Council’s approach is to try to recover a portion of the costs for water, sewerage and waste collection.
Based on 2017/18 figures, this would produce an additional income for Council of $61,948 in the 2018/19 budget year and a further $55,537 for the 19/20 budget, making a total of $117,285.
There are other asset areas that Council owns yet to undergo assessment, some of which could be considered superfluous to Councils needs and Council’s ability to continue funding. Any savings emerging from this evaluation would improve our financial position and consequently our ability to provide more funds to roadworks.
Councillors are entrusted to manage the business of South Burnett Regional Council in a responsible, fair and equitable manner. Supporting community organisations to the current level is commendable if you can afford it. However, when it’s technically ‘giving away’ ratepayers money at the expense of denying ratepayers roads they would be happy to live with, then the dilemma becomes problematic.
Once Council has developed the funding model to clear its backlog, Council then needs to ensure that there is sufficient money in ongoing operational budgets to properly maintain and replace roads and other assets on an ongoing basis. The need has been identified by Council following an intensive audit and business analysis. The road problems can only be fixed by providing more money in the maintenance budget to get its assets to an appropriate level and keep them there.