Struggle to balance budgets as wages decline

HOME owners are struggling to balance their budget as inflated incomes become a thing of the past, according to Gladstone accountant Bob Lamont.

He does paperwork for 2500 families in the area and said the jump in people moving to monthly payments of council rates was reflective of the change in income.

The latest census data taken in 2011 shows Gladstone households had an average weekly income of $1846.

But with large projects scaling back employee numbers, Mr Lamont said many families would have been brought back to reality when it came to wages.

"A lot of people had gotten used to the huge wages on the island," Mr Lamont said. "But now that's drying up."

Most households manage their budgets on a weekly basis, Mr Lamont said, making monthly payments more attractive than having to paying rates in one lump sum.

"The discount is insignificant in the scheme of things.

"A couple of hundred (dollars) in $3500 is nothing when you have the benefit of being able to plan your life around monthly outgoings."

Resident considers moving as rates become a challenge

This year Boyne Island resident Petra Wheeler was forced to move to monthly payments after she became too unwell to work and her household budget shrank. 

Petra Wheeler.
Petra Wheeler.

"I'd never really noticed the rates bill before," Mrs Wheeler said. "But now I am like, wow, this is a lot of money and I have no idea where to find it."

The rates on the Wheeler house are capped, so they can't rise by more than 10% a year, but Mrs Wheeler is still finding it difficult to justify not moving to an area where she would find lower rates.

"I love living here at Boyne," she said. "It has so much going for it, but it really does make you think twice, price-wise."

Changes to the council's rates and discount policy this financial year mean ratepayers who can't afford to pay within 31 days of the notice being issued will not be eligible for any discount.

This also means that interest on arrears of rates now applies to all outstanding rates after 31 days.

"In the next five or six years we will be coming up to retirement and we are not in the generation who has been paying into our super since leaving school," Mrs Wheeler said.

"Having to pay $3500-$4000 every year is a scary thought."

Number of property owners paying monthly:

  • January 2015: 2499
  • January 2014: 1695
  • That's a 47.5% increase