Raby Bay ratepayers challenge Redland City Council on canal funds snafu

TROUBLED WATERS: A disagreement has emerged between Raby Bay ratepayers and Redland City Council over funding of canal maintenance and repairs.
TROUBLED WATERS: A disagreement has emerged between Raby Bay ratepayers and Redland City Council over funding of canal maintenance and repairs.

RABY Bay ratepayers have launched a raft of complaints about Redland City Council after the authority bungled the collection of a $7 million dredging and repair works fund.

They have accused council of mismanagement  and say pleas for a better deal have been ignored.

Raby Bay Ratepayers Association secretary Tony Lovett said council might yet take back all of its contributions to the canals reserve fund made since 2011.

If this happened, it would mean that for the past six years, council had not contributed a penny to canal works despite the large public benefit the waterways provided.

He said the fund would be wound up with nothing left for future works which council would expect to be funded by a special levy on owners.

Mr Lovett said canal frontage property owners paid a high special levy top of extraordinarily high rates and other charges.

“Annual totals of more than $8000 are not unusual,’’ he said.

While council staff had been extremely supportive, this could not be said for councillors.

“Pleas for a better deal have been declined, complaints about mismanagement of the funds not fully answered,’’ Mr Lovett said.

“Repeated representations to council about delays, over budgeting and mismanagement have culminated in a review which found that the overall plan formulated in 2011 was not in compliance with regulations.’’

He said council decided to correct the problem by winding up the current scheme and refunding unspent monies.

It would stop levying the special charge for this year, take responsibility for a $4.5 million loan taken out in error, decide whether or not to levy a special charge next year and refund unspent funds to ratepayers.

Mr Lovett said council would collect about $2.5 million and receive an unplanned boost to this year’s revenue.

More than 1000 ratepayers who had paid more than $10 million into the fund would get to share what was left of unspent funds.

Mayor Karen Williams referred the matter to a council spokesperson who said council funds put into reserves would not be refunded to property owners as these were contributed by the general council fund, not canal property owners.

“Each year during budget deliberations, the contribution from council general fund is discussed in detail, with the percentage adopted included in the report to the special budget meeting,’’ the spokesperson said.

“All reserves are also published in council’s monthly financials to ensure ratepayers can see the month-on-month movement in the reserve balances.

“Council has not borrowed money in error. Borrowings are a result of a review of the works required, current and future commitments and also the intergenerational equity and asset management requirements of Redland City.’’

The spokesperson said council had written to all canal and lake property owners and had met twice with Raby Bay Ratepayers Association representatives since advising late last month of canal refunds. 

The spokesperson said work was being done by an external accounting company on the canal and lake reserves and until this was worked through no final decisions could be made.

The association has called a public meeting on the issue for the VMR Base, William Street, Cleveland at 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 26.