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“A united council for a united Whitsundays.” That is the key message from Whitsunday regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox as he and his new council unanimously adopted the 2016/17 Budget at a Special Meeting held in Proserpine today.
Cr Willcox described his council’s first ever budget as a difficult challenge in the short time frame since the election, but one that all councillors tackled enthusiastically to deliver a budget for a united Whitsunday Region.
“I am proud that my councillors have quickly embraced working as a team to ensure the best outcomes for the future of our diverse region.
“By working hard to find efficiencies within our organisation this council is putting a priority on improving the levels of service for our residents whilst reducing debt to the lowest levels in seven years,’’ he said.
“This council is changing the way it does business with its community and this budget is the first step to a better council for a better community; what we do today will set the path for our region’s future.
“To do the same but expect different outcomes is a mistake this council will not make as we remain proactive in encouraging and nurturing innovation and creative thinking and importantly become realistic and strategic about which investment we need to attract to provide ongoing growth and opportunities.”
Mayor Willcox said the State Government’s first land valuations since 2013 had caused headaches in rates calculations and he was proud councillors had protected residents, small business and industry and agriculture by delivering a zero average percentage increase.
“Council relies upon the State Government unimproved land valuations to calculate rates and some areas of our region have experienced significant downturn in the economy which saw some valuations drop by over 50 per cent.
“Council is collecting exactly the same residential rates in the dollar. However, due to the valuation fluctuations, there will some whose rates have risen slightly and some whose rates have dropped but it is important to remember that regardless of where you live in our region, you will pay the same amount of rates if you share the same land valuation.”
Mayor Willcox said this council had shown they are listening to residents by giving ratepayers a choice when it comes to how they pay for their water and also increasing the concession for pensioners by a further 10 per cent or $50 from last year.
“This increase means that most pensioners will receive a total concession of $350 towards their rates notice in addition to the State Government concession of $200.
“I would like to personally acknowledge the efforts of the CEO led Executive Leadership Team and the finance crew which worked closely with councillors to deliver this unified budget.”