The arcane world of finance and tax can be difficult to understand and navigate, so much so that even our Noosa Councillors and Mayor don’t seem quite sure of what their own budget story is telling.
So let’s take a short, graphic journey to help us understand what local ratepayers aren’t being told about what is happening in Noosa.
First, the rapidly increasing level of general rates collected by Noosa Council.
Next, when you can’t spend the rapidly rising amount you are collecting, you get surpluses like these.
And at the same time as general rates are rising dramatically, State and Federal grant money has been pouring in like never before.
While Noosa Council has been swimming in these rivers of gold, both in grants and higher rates, what about our local ratepayers? Here’s what was happening to our cost of living.
So why are they planning to increase general rates in their new Budget by another $6.5 million (the first graph) when they already have so much unrestricted cash sitting in the bank?
It was stated at the last Council General Committee meeting that “we’re at the end of that ‘rivers of gold’ phase of government”. While the statement was referring to the huge grants response from Brisbane and Canberra, the ‘rivers of gold’ could equally refer to the unprecedented scale of recent rate collections.
And, wait for it, there was talk at the meeting then about building up their end of year cash balance even further in the future.
It’s clear that our Council has become addicted to two rivers of gold, and the government one is coming to an end. Watch out ratepayers, there’s no discipline in Pelican Street, they’re like kids with a hand in the lolly jar.
Why not use the extra interest of almost $4 million that wasn’t expected in the current budget last June to give the community a break? Add another $2.5 million from the mountain of unrestricted cash in the bank, and a rate rise would not be necessary.
That would be $6.5 million that can stay in ratepayers’ pockets to help pay increasing costs of living.
It’s ironic that other governments have delivered huge grants to Noosa to help the community, yet at the same time Council is taking record rate increases from the same community – with much of it ending up in the bank.
The Auditor-General’s latest Report to Parliament revealed that Noosa Council’s operating surplus ratio was 7.48% for FY 2021. That means they finished the year’s operations with unused cash from operations of about $7 million.
How much is it going to be after June 30 this year? Recent form suggests there could be another addition to the bank account.
With a bit of spending discipline and despite the staff wage increase of 7.7% from last February, it should not be too difficult to finish next year in the black. After all, Council has been proudly describing the new budget as ‘back to basics’.
All it takes is a vote at the Council budget meeting to give ratepayers the break they deserve from a Council awash with cash. Now that would truly be back to the basics of what we should expect of a well run council.
Note: Data has been obtained from Council reports, Council audited financial statements, Council Annual Reports and the Auditor General’s 2021 Report to Parliament.