Gladstone rates not out of the ordinary, mayor says
ONE Gladstone man's anger at his rates increase has triggered an online tsunami.
New Auckland home owner Rhyan Kruger's petition has been overwhelmed with thousands of people calling for the Gladstone Regional Council to drop its rates and review its budget.
The petition was created on Tuesday night at change.org and within eight hours had 1000 signatures.
At 6.30am on Thursday it had 3496 supporters.
Rate notices for 2015/16 were sent this week and for the first time cover the cost of providing water and sewer to Gladstone.
In the petition, Mr Kruger said the increase made life "strenuous" for home owners and could not be justified.
"Our community requires a decrease in the price of rates, and a say into where the budget is spent," it reads.
The Gladstone community wants a fair go and a regional council willing to listen to its people."
Ratepayer anger was palatable as the hike was described online as unaffordable, astronomical and unfair.
Others queried the rise given a drop in land and house prices.
Yesterday Mayor Gail Sellers said some online comments were "not well founded" and encouraged ratepayers to contact council for clarification.
"Our rates are not out of the ordinary but they are a tax that no-one enjoys," she said.
Unfortunately, the cost of doing business does not decrease and expectations of residents do not decrease either
"I assure ratepayers that everything that can be done to reduce rates has been done but, unfortunately, there is pain for all of us at this time of the year; and while we continue to strive to keep costs down, any bill is going to hurt.
"The upside is that 46% of residential property owners have received a general rate reduction in 2015/16, which is a move in the right direction."
"Council understands the community is now more sensitive than during the boom times and we have invested significant effort to keeping rates down this year.
"We managed to restrain the increased cost of doing business to 0.15% and our Budget reflects this."
Cr Sellers said restraining costs had been achieved through a 100% commitment to reviewing the way council operated, and focusing and refining on the aspects of services that were most important.
A total of $4.2 million in organisational savings (or 3.08%) had been achieved, she said.
"Unfortunately, the cost of doing business does not decrease and expectations of residents do not decrease either.
"We have significantly committed to park upgrades and road repair and replacement this financial year.
"A total of $80.83 million will be spent on capital items alone, as they are needed to provide residents with the lifestyle they desire and deserve.
"I have provided The Observer with a comparison of rates across nine Councils and this shows that our increases are in line with those other similar Councils.
"Even our costs of water and sewer are comparable with those councils despite increases this year.
"These increases were needed to cover costs of providing those services and 2015/16 will be the first year that our pricing will cover the costs of providing water and sewer to Gladstone."
Cr Sellers said budget information was available at www.gladstone.qld.gov.au/budget for residents who would like to know more, or they can call the council on 4970 0700 to discuss their bills.
SPEAK UP: What do you think about your rates? We want to know your views. Get in touch on 4970 3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.