This inaugural budget that I put forward today will see Livingstone Shire Council soundly on the path to long-term financial sustainability.
It is a budget that is prudent given our circumstance, and importantly reflects responsible fiscal management while still delivering excellent outcomes across the board for our community. For this I must commend both our Transfer Manager and our senior management team for the work they have done in framing this our very first Livingstone Budget.
One of the key elements for ratepayers is the rate rise which, in contrast to the foreshadowed 16% projections suggested prior to the de-amalgamation vote, has come in at 5% across the board.
The budget has maintained a healthy capital works program for our growing Shire while also focusing on restoring the service levels that our ratepayers expect, and deserve. Maintenance in particular will be increased, particularly in our high profile spaces, CDB areas and parks.
This budget has also restored ‘common sense’ in areas like waste management with the reinstatement of free green waste disposal and dump vouchers for domestic general waste for both rural and urban ratepayers to help encourage and promote environmental best practice in our community.
Community groups will also benefit from proposed changes to our fees and charges structure that will abolish hire fees for community and not-for-profits groups using our Community Development Centre meeting rooms, and a 50% discount for those groups when they need to hire the Yeppoon Town Hall and Emu Park Cultural Hall.
Councillors as you know the process in framing the budget has not been without its challenges. De-amalgamation has brought with it the obligation for Livingstone to meet all the de-amalgamation costs of both Livingstone and the remaining RRC.
To their credit the majority of Livingstone voters accepted this onerous condition in exchange for the freedom to determine our own future as an independent Local Government area.
As anticipated the true de-amalgamation costs look set to come in well under the $10 million projected by the Queensland Treasury, and, with prudent management, the other good news is the Livingstone budget should be in a surplus position within 2 years.
In bringing down this positive and responsible budget for the community Council has also been forced to make some tough but necessary decisions in relation to staffing levels.
Under the terms of the de-amalgamation regulation Rockhampton Regional Council was permitted to allocate up to 60 more positions than Livingstone actually required to efficiently and effectively run Council’s operations.
As a result Council has been put in the invidious position of having to advise up to 38 staff, a number of whom had been long-serving Rockhampton City Council staff, that they will not be required for the effective and efficient operation of the new Livingstone Shire Council.
This was the joint recommendation from Transfer Manager Graeme Kanofski and the new Living¬stone senior management team. The decision has saddened both myself and fellow Councillors and was certainly not taken lightly.
It is disappointing RRC has taken advantage of the provisions of the de-amalgamation regulation to transfer the cost of addressing obvious long-standing staffing issues, however it is a situation Living¬stone must accept.
Despite this additional ‘one-off’ cost burden, Livingstone has been able to absorb the resultant re¬dundancy costs and still keep our rate rise down to 5%. This would not have been possible without making the tough decisions needed to get the new Council structure right from the outset.
Long-term Council’s financial bottom-line is now well on-track for sustainability as we move forward into what promises to be a bright and extremely positive future for the people of the new and most importantly independent Livingstone Shire.
Councillors I now formally move the combined budget recommendations and associated reports as presented and ask if the Deputy Mayor is prepared to second the motion.
Reproduced with permission.