Will anyone buy this Noosa budget?

Noosa Council has been out spruiking its 2022 budget like a newly-painted, second-hand car.  Can I suggest you kick the tyres and check under the bonnet before you buy this one?

The Council’s Financial Sustainability Policy lists 10 objectives that ‘will’ be achieved by ‘responsible ongoing financial management’.  First on the list is ‘Council operates in an efficient manner, minimising general rate increases’.

That’s not just a bunch of words. It’s a foundation principle. Or it should be.

As ratepayers, we are entitled to ask how this budget stacks up against that prime policy objective.

The spin coming from Pelican street suggests “The minimum general rate will increase by 5 percent which is lower than the south-east Queensland CPI.”  

But councils don’t spend the minimum general rate, they spend the TOTAL amount collected from all ratepayers. And that amount has now been increased by almost three times the CPI over the last 2 years. Almost triple the inflation rate!

That would have to be a record rates increase for Noosa Council, not a hint of  ‘minimising general rate increases’ here. 

Half of the increase has been spent on employee costs that have increased by more than 20% over 2 years, including 11% in this budget. The council hasn’t improved its service levels for years, so that’s not where all the rest is going.

Clearly the ‘Council operates in an efficient manner’ part of the management objective has gone missing.  

I have previously written about this year’s budget consultation, delayed until after the budget was all but signed, sealed and delivered.  (Council’s rationalisation for this was that it had already listened to, and taken into account, ratepayers commenting on the earlier Liveability Survey).

As expected, suggestions by ratepayers made little difference to the final budget.

Council staff reported on the top 10 increases suggested by community respondents, in order of importance. 

  • Top of the public’s list was more infrastructure spending – roads, bridges, stormwater. Result no increase in budget.
  • Second in importance was environment. Result – an extra staff member, plus $95,000 extra allocation from environment levy funds
  • Numbers 3 to 9 on the list. Result – no change to the budget for any of these 7 suggestions.
  • Number 10 was economic development. Result – $125,000 extra to each of Tourism Noosa and Council’s Economic Development branch.

Council also decided that renewal fees for registration of Short Term Accommodation premises would not be required for the 2022/3 financial year. 

So the community consultation resulted in increases in the draft budget to already bloated rates revenue and staff costs. None of the public’s recommended reductions in expenditure to pay for suggested increases were adopted by Council.

The largest cost item was the additional $250,000 handout to the business community despite being bottom of the list. That’s in addition to the record allocation of over $4 million already in the draft budget. 

It’s unlikely most participants in this last-minute ‘consultation’ process will see the results as anything other than contemptuous. It will be confirmation of the increasing view that this Council puts business ahead of community, at the community’s expense.

Now let’s finish with the following, final comment in the consultation report to Council.

‘Community trust will likely be eroded should Council determine to abandon future consultation’.

I’m confident our community can smell the difference between genuine consultation and what has occurred this year.  They won’t be buying this budget, or this process.


This Post Has 3 Comments

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    That’s what it looks like on that council site Noel, but you wouldn’t think so with the work in progress now. When I said to the manager of the business (one of the main ones in the shopping centre) that I thought the approval process had stalled, he looked surprised and said “Where did you hear that? It’s all a goer) and that’s the impression anyone would get. I’m not saying it’s good or bad as there are obviously two sides to the story – Noosa needs more aged care, and the glossies need suitable habitat. I thought the church was going to plant more trees to offset the loss. Anyway, sorry, probably a bit OT here but no one I’ve spoken to seems to know the current state of play.

  2. Avatar

    Guess we’ll have to wait until the rate notice arrives to see how much we’ll be hit and for sure it will be more than 5% for us! Meanwhile, just wondering what is the latest status of the Uniting Church aged care homes project at Sunrise Beach. I visited the shops there a few days ago and there is a lot of work in progress.
    Did they get the approval extension they sought during the controversy over the black glossies earlier this year or are they proceeding on the assumption it will be extended?
    What is the Noosa Council position?
    A business manager there told me it was all a goer but this is the latest I could find. Surely there has been more since then? (not sure if the link will be active here).

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