Rates relief on the table for Southern Downs residents
WIDESPREAD economic hardship may keep rates from rising on the Southern Downs when the 2020/2021 council budget is released later this year.
Southern Downs Mayor Tracy Dobie asked CEO David Keenan to plan for “zero rate increases”, councillors heard this morning.
“Our community has really suffered because of drought,” Cr Dobie said, appearing to become emotional.
“It is distressing.”
The comments came after councillor Vic Pennisi asked the mayor to consider funding any necessary rate rises through either the drought communities program or the bushfire recovery program.
“If you go around the district, there’s a lot of hurt out there,” Cr Pennisi said.
“You see acres and acres of dying apple trees and those people are just beside themselves.
“I don’t know what we can do, we just need to be conscious of that hurt because it’s everywhere.”
A rates freeze would present a significant blow to council finances, after drought restrictions reduced water sales revenue.
“Not selling that water certainly had an impact on our budget this financial year,” Cr Dobie said.
“And it will continue to have a big impact on the remaining five and a half months – How we keep our finances managed and under control, still deliver a surplus and still deliver services for our community.
“We thought 2019 was a difficult year, but 2020 is going to be really hard for our ratepayers.”