Redland City agrees to 2.9 per cent rates hike after $327 million COVID-affected budget handed down

FUNDS: Mayor Karen Wiilliams and deputy mayor Julie Talty look over the Redlands Coast Council budget for 2020-21.
FUNDS: Mayor Karen Wiilliams and deputy mayor Julie Talty look over the Redlands Coast Council budget for 2020-21.

THE Redland budget will see rates increase by an average 2.9 per cent or $32 a year, and state government water charges will add a further $36.

The government's state bulk water charge, will increase by 6.4 per cent.

This comes after mayor Karen Williams handed down council's $327 million COVID-hit 2020-21 budget today.

"The extra money collected in rates through this year's increase will contribute towards further COVID-19 recovery measures to help areas hardest hit by the pandemic," she said.

She said it was expected council's finances would take a multi-million dollar hit from COVID-19.

The budget includes an expanded $80 million capital investment aimed at generating and preserving local jobs and adding to community infrastructure and services.

"Council have been diligent in maintaining low levels of debt and a strong balance sheet over the years in preparation for a rainy day and rain has arrived, so with local businesses struggling we are going to spend local to keep locals employed," she said.

Cr Williams said a significant part of the spend was due to the strong financial reserves that council built for a situation like this.

"We are also topping up our COVID-19 recovery fund by a further $1 million, providing a total of $3 million safety net to be used by those impacted by the pandemic," she said.

Cr Williams said while some councils had chosen to spread rate relief broadly, Redlands had kept funds aside to provide relief when needs were better understood.

"We know the full impacts of the COVID pandemic won't be known until later this year when support like the federal government's Job Keeper program have ended and this funding will allow us to do that."

"This may be through rates relief, business support or grants to the community, we will keep an eye on the impacts and have that money on hand to respond when and where it is needed most," she said.

Cr Williams said council would absorb as much of the COVID impacts as possible, without passing on the impact to residents.

"We will do this by adopting an operating deficit budget and keeping the increase in general rates revenue to 2.99 per cent, taking in all rating categories - or about 62 cents a week for a owner-occupied household, excluding separate charges, utilities and state government charges," she said.

The environment charge is down 4.7 per cent and the landfill remediation charge is down almost 26 per cent - a reduction of $16 on last year for both charges.

Cr Williams said as part of its COVID response, council had strengthened its focus on spending locally to help stimulate the economy.

Pensioners will get rates and utilities' rebates of almost $3.5 million, with rates rebates of $335 a year for a full pensioners or $167.50 for a part-pensioner.

Cr Williams said it was disappointing the state government had increased bulk water costs by a further 6.4 per cent, meaning the city's total bulk water costs were now $43.4 million.

Council has kept its retail water consumption increase to 2.13 per cent.