A low rate rise and a $164.7 million Capital Works program are the highlights of the $316 million balanced Budget for 2019-20 brought down by Cairns Regional Council this morning (3 July 2019).
The budget also features a range of initiatives and projects aimed at protecting and caring for our environment, with a $3.3 million ground mounted solar program, and a major upgrade of the Materials Recovery Facility leading the charge.
In his Budget address, Cairns Mayor Bob Manning pointed to the strong financial management record Council had achieved over the past six years.
“Today’s Budget maintains Council’s record of low rate rises, with 70% of ratepayers receiving an increase of 1.5 per cent or less in their general rates,” he said.
“This is perhaps the best indicator of good financial management and one that is critical for our economy because it means people have more money in their pockets to spend in our community.
“In delivering these low rate rises, we have still managed to maintain a significant Capital Works program. We have delivered a total of $870 million in Capital Works over the past 6 years – when you take into account this coming year, that number will exceed $1 billion.
“We have done all of this and kept debt at an appropriate level – currently Cairns is the fourth lowest among 15 Councils in the State – and we have also delivered surpluses in operating expenditure over the past six budget cycles.”
Across the next 12 months, Council will spend $380 million through materials and services associated with delivering capital works, maintenance, renewals and other services. Approximately 90 per cent of Council’s total expenditure is invested locally through employment and locally sourced materials and services.
With a focus in recent years on delivering new and expanded public assets, $40 million will be spent on the maintenance and upkeep of the city’s road and drainage network, 577 parks and nature areas, 485km of footpaths, 799 litter bins, and 64 toilet blocks.
Tourism has again been recognised as the driving force behind Cairns’ economy and Council will support this with $3.4 million toward marketing the region as a premier tourist destination.
A further $850,000 will support major sporting and cultural events that will deliver an economic benefit to the region, including the Cairns Adventure Festival and Ironman, Targa Great Barrier Reef and Chinese New Year.
This year’s Capital Works program features:
- $50.6 million on roads, bridges, drainage, kerb and channel, shoulder sealing, and footpaths
- $24.2 million on improving the wastewater network
- $28.2 million on water and waste infrastructure, and
- $29 million of community, sport, cultural and tourism projects.
“Importantly for the CBD, which is facing some challenges at the moment, we will be commencing work on the Esplanade Dining Precinct and Stage 3 of the Shields Street project, and completing the Court House refurbishment as part of the broader Gallery Precinct plan,” Cr Manning said.
Florence Street would also be redeveloped to provide improved pedestrian connectivity from the CBD to the Cairns Performing Arts Centre and Munro Martin Parklands, with nearly $10 million allocated this year and $5 million in the next budget to complete the project.
Council has set aside funds in the Budget for an activation program for the CBD and for the appointment of a CBD Place Manager to proactively work with traders and other stakeholders.
Cr Manning also outlined $15.6 million of projects funded in the Budget that will not only protect our environment but yield significant savings in energy costs.
“We know that our wastewater treatment plants are big users of electricity so this year we have committed $3.35 million to create mini solar farms at five plants which will generate 1.7megawatts of energy, reducing our electricity costs at those facilities by 26%, or $417,000, each year,” he said.
A major upgrade of the Materials Recovery Facility costing nearly $6 million will also yield big dividends in the recycling space.
“This upgrade will increase the capacity of the facility to deal with a greater volume of recyclables, resulting in significant increase in diversion from landfill from the current 50% to up to 90%,” Cr Manning said.
The popular Buy Back Shop will also be upgraded to improve the delivery area so that this facility is able to process many more items for re-use.
In addition to these projects, Council will also continue on its rollout of smart water meters, with $3.4 million allocated in this year’s Budget and $13 million slated over the next two years to complete the installations across the city.
2019-20 BUDGET AT A GLANCE
- Council has delivered a balanced Budget with a total operating expenditure/revenue of $316m
Low Rate Rise
- General rate increase of 1.5% or less for 70% of ratepayers, which is in line with CPI
- Utility access charges increase by 1.5%
- Residential water usage charges increase by 2c/kilolitre to $1.21 a kilolitre
Broad Capital Works Program
- Total Capital Works Program worth $164.7m
- $50.6m on roads, bridges, drainage, kerb and channel, shoulder sealing, and footpaths
- $24.2m on improving the wastewater network
- $28.2m on water and waste infrastructure, and
- $29m of community, sport, cultural and tourism projects
Stimulating the Economy
- $380m will be spent on resources, materials and services, 90% of which will be spent locally
- $3.6m to support tourism industry and economic development activities
- $850,000 to support major events
- $10m to commence redevelopment of Florence Street, with $5m committed in the next budget to complete the project
- $3m to commence work on the Esplanade Dining Precinct and Stage 3 of the Shields Street project, with $13.5m committed next year
- $3.6m to complete the Court House refurbishment as part of the broader Gallery Precinct
- $6m for a major upgrade of the Material Recovery Facility, boosting the diversion from landfill from 50% to up to 90% (additional $1m committed in 20/21 Budget)
- $3.4m for the continued roll-out of smart water meters, with $13m committed over the next two years
- $3.35m to create mini solar farms at five wastewater treatment plants
- $1.7m to support the operations of the Cairns Art Gallery and the Cairns Museum.
- $1.4m to fund lifesaving services at the Lagoon and on the Beaches
- $1m for grants for community, sporting and cultural activities and events
*Note re. grant funding
Multiple items listed within the Cairns Regional Council budget are funded in part by external grant streams via the Queensland and Australian Governments.