Rates, high council debt a concern to ratepayer

Letter to the editor from John Blake, of West Gladstone

JUST a bit of a summary for those ratepayers unable to attend Tuesday's council general meeting:

A well-intentioned petition seeking a general review of council "rates and charges" was delivered to the council in the course of council business.

Unfortunately the petition lost some of its gloss when people from outside of the regional area were found to have joined up in protest.

The bulk of those mum and dad ratepayers attending the meeting felt that their rates had increased, despite a reduction in land values, and overall, total charges were excessively high when compared with other towns around the state.

The council held the line that "general rate" reduction had in fact been given to 46% of residents, with another 25% receiving an increase of up to 5%, and the balance having varying increases capped at 10%.

What confused the issue was use of the term "council rates", "rates" and "rates and charges".

It was obvious ratepayers were there to protest the final money item appearing on their rate notice as: "Total current charges".

Example: For me, this year's "general rate" was reduced by $77 compared to last year's, but "charges" were increased by $52 from last year, meaning I end up saving $25 overall.

My land valuation dropped by $47,500, but I got $25 knocked off council rates to show for it.

Sadly, on the argument that our rates and charges should be the lowest in the state on account of the long-term generosity that has been poured into the district by our many good corporate citizens, all at no cost to council, the council did admit that it was "good" to have them about, but failed to appreciate how that would translate into lower capital costs for the council, thereby providing ample opportunity for collecting "less" revenue - from struggling mum and dad ratepayers.

To its credit the council informed ratepayers that it had worked hard and long to knock off $4.2 million from operational costs, translating into savings for ratepayers, and a knock-off against an annual interest debt of $9.25 million on outstanding loans.

Finally, I can't see anything changing and Gladstone will remain high on the comparable list of rates and charges.

However, I feel we should receive an explanation of how the record debt of $168.08 million, in the final term of this council, has got gotten so high in such a short period of time.

I know the airport corporation was happy to transfer $28 million of its original loan back to the council for ratepayers to look after.

What are the big-ticket items making up the rest of the $140 million?

Will we find the answer in the council's next glossy publication of "Council Connection?"

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