What we know:

  • The 1% general rate increase is the highlight
  • Council has allocated an additional $1.7 million on building and maintaining footpaths 
  • Pet ownership is again a significant focus
  • Pensioners will have more choices when it comes to dog registration

MAYOR Chris Loft expects the Fraser Coast Regional Council to build on the region's "best ever budget" and continue to deliver low or no rates increases in the next four years.

The lowest rates rise in the Fraser Coast's history was unanimously endorsed by council in Hervey Bay.

Average ratepayers face an annual increase of about $30 on last year's rates.

Fraser Coast Regional Council 2016/17 budget - Mayor Chris Loft with Cr. Rolf Light.
Fraser Coast Regional Council 2016/17 budget - Mayor Chris Loft with Cr. Rolf Light. Alistair Brightman

The $210 million council and Wide Bay Water budget is the first handed down by Cr Loft.

With rates to rise by 1%, the majority of Fraser Coast residents are expected to be winners.

There are 52 properties in a commercial rates category that are expected to see a greater increase.

While the general rates rise equates to $12 annually, water, sewerage and waste charges have also risen $5, $8 and $4 respectively.

ALSO IN COUNCIL

1. Loft: precinct to cost residents rates freeze

2. COVERAGE: Winners and losers in this year's Coast budget

The 1% general rate increase is the highlight, while more will be spent on footpaths this year than in the past council term.

The council has allocated an additional $1.7 million over last year on building and maintaining footpaths on the Fraser Coast.

Pet ownership is again a significant focus for councillors.

Pensioners will have an option to pay for two years of dog registration and receive a third year free.

There is no increase in registration fees for desexed dogs and cats. It is the second year those fees have been frozen.

Assistance dogs can also now be registered for free in an initiative believed to be one of the first in the state.

Registration fees for an entire dog (not desexed) will rise $7.

Councillors Paul Truscott and Stuart Taylor expressed concerns about the sustainability of the low rates in future years.

Fraser Coast Mayor Chris Loft was confident the rises could be even lower next year.

"It certainly can be repeated, we can even improve on that," he said.

"In all levels of government there is wastage, they might think they're running efficiently but there's always better ways. "We've only been together for 100 days, this is an astounding unanimous decision that everyone has come to."

Finance councillor Rolf Light said the council was lightening the load on ratepayers. "There are some fees and charges that have increased around the 1%," he said. "It's a great, great budget for the region, it's great for jobs growth, it's great for the community.

"This is one of the lowest rates rises in the whole state and this shows our concern of the burden on ratepayers."

Cr Light said the budget team walked a fine line of maintaining services while continuing to be the region's fiscal engine driver. "This financial year alone we've spent $78 million in the local economy," he said.

A new 5-star food rating system will also be developed for the Coast's food establishments - something that could save businesses money. "If they go into the rating program it will actually be cheaper for licence fees," Cr Light said.

Cr Loft cited the $600,000 innovation hub as a key project that "will kick on the economy" as it encourages technology businesses. "We've got to get the economy up and ramping," he said.

Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook praised councillors for their due diligence in the budget process. She did have reservations about the benefits to businesses.

"I am concerned - family friendly and caring community has to be balanced out with an economic plan," she said.

"It's important for local government to spend and keep the economy going.

"I'm keen to see where they'll spend the bulk of the income." Ms Holebrook also questioned the location of Maryborough's innovation hub and how long it would take to deliver results.

"Innovation is not a short-term thing, it's a long-term plan - (it) may not produce significant results for a good 24 months," she said. "There's 22,000 people in Maryborough and their culture is embedded in history. Lots of people move into Hervey Bay, it's a transitional place - a lot of people with life experience are moving to the area which is where the ideas are likely to come from."

There will be no increase in hall hire, airport parking and spectators to the aquatic centres. But tickets to the town's swimming pools will rise 20c for an adult and 10c for a child between 3 and 15 years old.



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