On behalf of Council and the community, I’m pleased to present the Winton Shire Council Budget for 2020/21.
Council has considered the many challenges our community is currently facing when compiling and finalising this budget. Our Shire has faced another year of drought, a flood event in early 2020 and continues to grapple with the lingering effects of the 2019 monsoon disaster. We are now dealing with the COVID-19 virus that has crippled our countries economy. With these challenges in mind, Council has developed a budget that maintains services, infrastructure and liveability, while growing our workforce and engaging local contractors.
The budget for 20/21 will total $45.5m (comprising $22m in operating expenditure and $23.5m in capital expenditure).
Council deliberated long & hard regarding the setting of rates, utility charges and other fees for the upcoming financial year. As mentioned previously, the challenges we have faced over the last 12 months were front and centre when it came to set these amounts. The setting of council rates for 20/21 was further impacted by a revaluation of rural property values by the State Valuation Service – the first revaluation in six years.
This resulted in rural land values increasing by 55% on average, however the range of individual rural property increases are anywhere between 9% - 351%, adding to the difficulty in levying rural rates. There were no increases to residential and other land use values.
Council has determined there will be no increase to the total amounts levied for general rates and utility charges for 20/21, however due to the huge variation in valuation increases, there will be considerable changes for rates levied on individual properties which ties back in to their valuation increase.
Whilst a 0% increase is below the current Brisbane CPI increase of 1.8% (up to the March 2020 quarter), Council has been fortunate to receive additional grant funding from the State & Federal Governments for the following programs: -
The Capital Works portion of the budget is $23.5m with a good balance of new infrastructure and the renewal and replacement of ageing infrastructure. The projects selected will keep our community thriving for the next financial year and provide a wide range of opportunities for our local contractors and businesses. The largest component of the capital budget is the Engineering projects totalling almost $16m which includes:
- Flood Damage Restoration
- Kerb & Channelling Rehabilitation
- Lark Quarry Access Pave & Seal
- Betterment Works for realigning a section of the Diamantina River Road
- Pedestrian Crossover Ramp Upgrades
To mention just a few. These works will keep our Council workforce and contractors busy for the year ahead. The balance of the Capital Works Program includes:
The rural road network will have an allocation of $1,200,000 for maintenance which is additional to the flood damage funds. There will also be a renewal of floodway’s and culverts to make the roads more resilient during and after a rain event.
Council recognises connectivity is essential when travelling to and within our shire, especially for tourists. Council has committed to construct a further two Telstra Small Cell Towers within our shire in Middleton and Opalton. This will add to the existing towers we have in Corfield and Lark Quarry (which is almost completed).
The current term of council is committed to developing and administering a comprehensive Asset Management Program to maintain and rebuild our ageing infrastructure. This will ensure our essential assets are fit for purpose for many years to come. We are currently in the process of developing Showgrounds and Sale Yards Masterplans (which includes community consultation), that will guide the refurbishment and future development of these two important areas. Funding has been allocated for the electrical and stables upgrade at the showgrounds, along with upgrades to the electrical and lighting infrastructure at the sale yards.
The Childcare Centre plays an integral role in growing the minds of our young children and will undergo a staged redevelopment of the outside play area. The first stage ($525,000) will be completed this financial year with the next stage to follow as funding becomes available. Council also recognises the beautiful Shire Hall is the hub for travelling artists, stage shows and the local ball. With this in mind, we will be replacing the air-conditioning along with upgrading the lighting and curtains. This will make the hall a much more enjoyable facility with many activities planned in the coming year.
The beautification of our town has been ongoing for many years, recently highlighted with the completion of the Elderslie Street upgrade. A further $100,000 has been allocated to develop street tree avenues. The lawn cemetery will also be extended and eventually it will be double its current size.
Essential to a budget is the range of community services which council provides. Many of these services are not provided by larger councils, but are an important part of the integrity of our shire, these include:
- Community & Individual Support
- Sport & Recreation
- Family Support
- Youth Development
- Community Development
- 60’s & Better
- Library Services
These programs and activities are for the young, the active, the elderly and the vulnerable in our community. I encourage everyone to take advantage of these great services.
Economic development is a high priority for council. We have allocated funds to employ an Economic Development Manger whose goal will be to encourage and assist local business while attracting new businesses, industries & families to our shire. For a regional centre to be prosperous we need to grow our population and the actions in The Economic Development Strategy 2018-2023 will allow this occur.
Winton is widely recognised as the festival capital of outback Queensland and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our festival and events program was unfortunately impacted during 2020. It is pleasing to see the rescheduling of The Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival and the Opal Festival later in 2020. Following strong community representations to Council, the Winton Way Out West Fest will be returning in April 2021 with a revamped format and new Event Managers (Chandler Shaw). This will kick start our busy events calendar for 2021 and provide a much-needed economic boost for the shire.
Council continues to maintain a strong financial position despite operating in very difficult economic times. Operating conditions can change very quickly and the funding streams we currently enjoy may not always be available in the future. Council is mindful of this and has taken the opportunity to strengthen our financial reserves to ensure we are prepared for the future.
A lot of work goes into preparing a budget, especially in these challenging times. I would like to thank Councillors and staff for their efforts and hard work in bring this together.
I recommend the 2020/21 budget for adoption.