Council Backs Brisbane with First Rates Freeze in 35 Years

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Quick Facts:

Total budget: $3.1 billion
Average owner-occupier annual rates: $1,229.85 (excluding COVID-19 rebate)
Coronavirus budget impact: More than $142.5 million in reduced revenue
Fully-funded capital works infrastructure program: $840 million
Parks and suburban improvements: $334.4 million
Economic Recovery Initiatives: $15.7 million funded by two-year pause on annual kerbside collection

Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner has today announced the first Council rates freeze in 35 years to help support residents, businesses and community groups in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As part of this year’s $3.1 billion budget, the Lord Mayor has unveiled a major package to stimulate jobs and local business growth, including a freeze on rates until the end of the year.

“We have never seen economic turmoil like this in our lifetime; residents from all walks of life are hurting,” Cr Schrinner said. “Our bottom line is taking a hit through lost revenue such as waiving fees, leases and charges, $38 million in rates deferrals and switching off parking meters to help essential workers. This budget is built to rebuild Brisbane. We want people back in jobs, businesses to thrive again and the city back to its vibrant best while also giving residents and business a financial breather as they get back on their feet.”

Rates traditionally rise annually on 1 July, but this year there will be no increase for six months. When rates are adjusted in January 2021, they will rise on average by 2.5%, however more than 3,500 households are expected to receive a rates decrease. This rate freeze will apply to both residential and business rates.

“Right now across our city we know people are doing it tough. We know there are thousands of households struggling with unemployment or declining revenue from a family business. And we know that recovery from this struggle won’t be immediate,” continued Cr Schrinner. “We will also offer a $250 owner-occupier rebate for JobSeeker recipients and eligible pensioners will continue to get up to 40% off their rates bill. And, first home owners will continue to get 50% off their first year’s rates bill and those buying a new home will get a 100% rates discount. This is about providing instant relief for those in need as well as encouraging job-creating construction work.”

Council switched off parking meters and slashed daily car park fees to help essential workers, saving residents $6.9 million from March to May. Parking fees will also be frozen until the end of the year.

“We have waived millions of dollars in fees, rents and charges to back business and support community organisations and this will continue until the end of the year,” added Cr Schrinner. “In every announcement since the pandemic hit, we’ve focussed on immediate relief for those experiencing financial hardship, but this budget also looks at the future.

“We know it’s not just residents and businesses doing it tough. Our community groups have had their opportunities to raise revenue slashed with the COVID-19 strictions. We took early action to help these organisations to ensure that lease fees and other charges to Council were waived. We then announced we would help struggling sports clubs by providing a one-off $5,000 grant so they could water their fields ahead of reopening. We have urged the State Government to reduce the State Bulk Water Charge which is the biggest single cost on clubs’ water bills. They have not yet listened to that call, but we will continue to make it.

“In the meantime, we are providing $3 million in direct assistance for community groups on Council land to help them rebuild after this pandemic. This will not only help clubs pay bills that have piled up during their forced closure, it will also support leaseholders who have been unable to do maintenance works on their buildings due to lack of revenue as a result of COVID-19.”

The Lord Mayor also announced the formation of Brisbane’s Economic Recovery Taskforce to lead the reboot of our economy. “The Economic Recovery Taskforce is working with industry to drive the resurgence of our economy, including a $7 million fund for Suburban Priority Projects and a $9.2 million investment in revitalising suburban precincts,” he continued.

Council is also injecting $840 million into major infrastructure projects that will get Brisbane residents back to work, including the turn-up-and-go Brisbane Metro, which will create 2,600 jobs and hundreds of supplier opportunities.

“Brisbane Metro is the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by Council, which will revolutionise public transport in our city,” Cr Schrinner said. “We are gaining momentum with early works underway in South Brisbane and Rochedale, the preferred tenderer Brisbane Move has been announced and we have agreement with the State to build an above-ground Cultural Centre station. To fast-track the Kangaroo Point and Breakfast Point green bridges and create 500 jobs, Council has invested $23.3 million to get the projects going sooner and $300 million over four years. The CityCat fleet will expand with $37.1 million invested in seven new double-decker CityCats to be built by local suppliers. And we are also getting behind city-defining projects with $334.4 million to upgrade and construct new parks to enhance Brisbane’s enviable liveability, including Victoria Park.”

The delivery of new and upgraded roads, footpaths, bikeways and sporting facilities will also create jobs and economic benefits. The budget allocates $344.8 million over four years, in partnership with the Federal Government, to fix congestion and improve traffic flow on suburban roads through the Better Roads for Brisbane program. Another $107 million will be invested over the next year on footpath reconstruction and maintenance and $58 million will be spent over 2 years on major cycleway projects, including the completing the Indooroopilly Riverwalk. The annual kerbside collection will be paused for two years, in response to COVID-19 impacts with funding redirected into economic recovery initiatives. Free tip vouchers will be distributed to all Brisbane households from 1 July, including renters, and native plants will be free for residential tenants.

The Lord Mayor highlighted that COVID-19 impacts had already slashed $40 million in Council revenue in 2019-2020 and will punch another $142.5 million hole in the 2020-2021 finances, but that Council is responding with a financially responsible balanced budget.