By TONY FOSTER*
AT our workshop last month, Brighton Council considered its budget for the forthcoming financial year and at its May meeting approved in principle our rates for 2019/20. The recommendation will now go to Council for formal approval at the June meeting.
The Budget provides for a rate increase of just 2.1 per cent, in line with the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Hobart. This means that the rate increase for every residential home in the Brighton Municipality will be $18 a year or $1.50 a month.
This is the 24thyear in succession that Brighton has held down its rate increases in line with or below the inflation rate, which essentially means no real increase at all, and I am proud that we are leading the State in this regard. No other Council in Tasmania can boast a similar achievement and I doubt that any local government authority in Australia can match Brighton’s record.
In considering our budget, we were mindful of the cost pressures on ratepayers and the increases in charges and prices for many other services and household goods, many of which are rising well in excess of the inflation rate. We certainly don’t want to add to that burden and by maintaining our fair rating policy based on a flat rate for residential properties, we continue to be the lowest rating council per head of population in Tasmania.
But that does not mean that we are neglecting the services and facilities that our community requires to function. As you can see from the report in this issue of Brighton Community News, Council will be undertaking an extensive program of capital works and maintaining the full range of services. The full detail of our budget that will be released after it receives formal Council approval will demonstrate that we will continue to support all the appropriate services and are undertaking a number of valuable projects to support ratepayers and the community.
We are able to do this because Brighton Council operates extremely efficiently, and our rate base is supported by innovations including resource sharing with other like-minded councils and our MicroWise software business that earns valuable revenue to help fund local services. We keep our administration costs to a minimum and that means we are able to focus our spending on areas that most benefit our ratepayers.
Indeed, our strong performance has again been confirmed in the latest State Government snapshot of Tasmania’s councils. This shows Brighton to be an efficient local government body, with low operating costs. Our costs per rateable property of a little over $1900 a year is more than $600 lower than comparable councils and more than $850 lower than the average of all Tasmanian councils.
In making our rates determination, we are saying this is what our revenue will be for the next year and we must operate within that. Like households must do, councils must also live within their means and Brighton is doing just that. We are consistently setting an example that many other councils are now following.
By holding down rate increases, while still achieving significant growth, improved services, and a strong capital works program, Brighton is demonstrating that our model is sustainable and appropriate for the times.
I must commend our Council officers for their work in developing the budget recommendations and my fellow Councillors for their input and diligent consideration. I look forward to reporting further on our initiatives for 2019/20 after Council has approved the budget and rates determination in the next few weeks.
The important outcome for the Brighton municipality is that our joint efforts have enabled us to hold down rate increases for our community for well over two decades and it is an approach that Brighton Council intends to maintain into the future.