By TONY FOSTER
Mayor of Brighton
BRIGHTON Council will not increase general rates for the next financial year and will implement a record capital works program as the Municipality responds to the impact of the coronavirus shutdown.
Undoubtedly, the shutdown, with many businesses closed, people working reduced hours, others working from home, and sadly some losing their jobs, Council sees this as a positive, but the responsible response to the current economic environment.
Holding down the rates will assist ratepayers and hopefully, our capital works program will provide an economic stimulus for the entire municipality.
Council considered its budget for the forthcoming financial year at its workshop in May and provided approval in-principle of our rates for 2020/21. The recommendation now goes to Council for formal approval at the June meeting.
Importantly, this is the 25th year in succession that Brighton Council has held its rate increase at or below the annual increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a record that no other Tasmanian council can match and one that is a cause of great pride for Councillors, our management and employees.
In considering the budget for the next financial year Councillors were mindful of the COVID-19 impact and the other cost pressures on our community. At the same time, we had to consider the real reduction in revenue and consider this in line with the needs of the community
We have done this and at the same time, have been able to plan for an all-time record capital works spending of $12.5 million as we seek to do all we can responsibly do to stimulate the local economy and provide enhanced services for our community.
So, despite the financial challenges, we are not 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 continues to operate 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.
In making our rates determination highlighted by a nil increase in the general rate across the municipality, 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 we can meet the challenges now confronting us.
The important outcome for ratepayers is that our efforts have enabled us to hold down rate increases for our community for some two and a half decades and it is an approach that Brighton Council is determined to pursue into the future.
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 2020/21 after Council has approved the budget and rates determination in the next few weeks.
In closing, I must record my sincere appreciation and congratulations to our long-serving General Manager Ron Sanderson who retires at the end of this month. Ron has been a great leader and has made a significant contribution to the development of the Brighton Municipality and our community over the past 27 years. On behalf of the Council and the entire Brighton community, a heartfelt thank you, Ron.