MARK EDWARDS EXPLAINS THE REDLAND CITY COUNCIL 2021-22 BUDGET AND ITS ISLAND IMPLICATIONS
This is not a Council article. It is provided by our local councillor, Mark Edwards, based on the information he has been provided and figures are rounded for the purpose of discussion. For complete information refer to the Council budget at Redland City Council web site.
The 2021/22 Council budget was handed down at a Special General Meeting of Councillors on the 24th June., and it has significant positive ramifications for our islands.
The 324 page agenda is reflective of the complexity of an organisation with over 1000 employees and an annual budget of over $300 million.
It’s very expensive, complex, and delivers a diverse range of services to keep our community flourishing.
We have one of the few local Councils in Australia that is financially sustainable, with low levels of debt and access to other forms of substantive income other than rates.
It takes around five months of councillor workshops with officers to develop the budget each year.
The general rate increase for an average resident in an owner occupied property category 1a is 1.7%. (This excludes utility and State charges which we collect on their behalf).
As at the time of writing, Fraser Coast had a 3.1% increase and Brisbane City a 2.5% increase. The cost of Council retail water has increased 2.5% however the State Government cost to supply our water has increased 3.5%.
When setting the budget, we first need to look at our expenses and what needs to be covered.
Of the $327 million in costs for next financial year, there are four main categories. The cost to buy water from the State government is over $45 million, $70 million is set aside for infrastructure and capital works programs, $103 million to purchase material and deliver services to our community; and $97 million to pay our employees who deliver those services and maintenance programs.
To fund these costs the main income source is our levy and utility charges generating around $170 million.
Rates, which most people think cover everything plus some left over, generates around $111 million.
TAKE NOTE that rates’ income covers employee costs so the statement that “I pay my rates” is false; rates alone don’t keep Council operating.
Bulk water revenue is around $40 million, Grants and subsidies add another $30 million, fees and charges plus a range of other smaller revenue sources make up the balance.
If your rates were to cover everything, they would be over three times higher. Our focus as Councillors is to ensure other revenue streams are available to us whilst making sure our expenses are affordable.
That sets us apart from many other Councils our size, and smaller, (who face real financial difficulties), is that Council holds $174 million in cash to ensure we can ride out any financial difficulty, pay our bills and meet employee costs should an unexpected event occur. Council has the ability to pay out all borrowings at any time.
Every year Council spends money to deliver new infrastructure and assets. Those assets are the communities’, and the net value of those assets for this new financial year will total over $2.7 billion dollars.
Our Capital Investment program for this year is $70 million. However, that is a little misleading unless you know what it includes; 66% of those funds are actually just for renewals which is keeping what we already have in a fit state.
So, if you take $46 million away for repairs and replacement, then you are left with $24 million for new capital works programs.
Of those funds $10 million is allocated for new works directly benefiting SMBI – nearly half of the Redlands’ new capital works!
In my column elsewhere in this edition, I down-played the amount of capital works program for the islands as opposed to the rest of the city, as I used repair works as part of the equation.
When looking at absolutely new works, SMBI gets nearly the same as the rest of the city.
The statement I hear often is that the money goes to the mainland, not the islands; but the figures don’t support that.
Yes, we pay a lot of rates, but rates don’t cover the budget and what we do get per person far exceeds a mainland resident.
If our islands population is 10,000 people then we get nearly the same as 155,000 mainland people for new capital works.
And that is the way it should be at the present time, as we have a lot of infrastructure that needs to be delivered on the islands, and I lobby for every single dollar. Every way you cut the budget, the islands are getting a larger share of infrastructure spend than the mainland.
Am I happy with the budget? Only partly.
I would like to see Council borrow say $10 million and just finish sealing the roads and have that sorted so we can concentrate on other needs.
However, I understand that other councillors have their own issues and we are faced with other challenges such as sports fields, the Olympics and congested roads.
We try and work together, and deliver the best, with the resources we have.
In next month’s August edition: details of roads scheduled to be sealed, the process (how projects get funded); and more details of projects to be delivered.