Byron Shire Council’s draft four-year delivery program, one-year operational plan, 2018/19 budget and fees and charges are now on public exhibition, and include a focus on infrastructure and emissions reductions.
The $130 million budget comes with a ‘renewed focus on roads maintenance, sustainability, precinct plans and working better with the community,’ says the council press release. $50.9m has been pegged for capital works.
But the budget also comes with slight increases in some charges, as well as a hike in rates, which were approved by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
Mayor Simon Richardson said, ‘Over the past eight months we’ve undertaken significant consultation to better understand your priorities – we’ve listened and built a plan that hopefully delivers on these.’
Key capital works highlights include $18.4 million for road reconstruction, $6.97 million for water and sewer, $4.25 million for open spaces and recreation, $5.57 million for bridge replacement, $2.27 million for asset renewal/maintenance, $2.1 million for the Railway Park upgrade and $1.75 million for pipeline renewal in Mullumbimby.
Cr Richardson said, ‘Loud and clear, we hear that improving our roads and infrastructure is important and based on the Community Solutions Panel recommendations you’ll see a renewed focus on roads maintenance with risk and safety the number one priority. For the first time, we are investing $200,000 in a gravel re-sheet program and $200,000 in a heavy patching program, which is centred around a proactive approach to road maintenance, rather than reactive.
‘We’re progressing our $5.5 million bridge replacement program (Booyong, Parkers, Blindmouth, Scarabelottis, O’Mearas and James) to ensure connections are safe for all types of vehicles.
‘We’ll be looking at remediating the South Byron Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) site and how we can make best use of this into the future.
‘Railway Park Byron Bay will get a $2.1 million upgrade activating the space that has long been needing attention.
‘Two years ago the NSW government granted Council permission for a four-year variation to rates to allow us to focus on roads and this year it will give us an extra $2.49 million for capital and maintenance works,’ he said.
‘In the sustainability space, we will be expanding solar farms at Bangalow; Byron and Brunswick Valley Sewage Treatment plants and delivering an emissions reduction strategy.
‘We’re developing a shirewide integrated pest-management strategy and implementing our koala-management plan.
‘To reduce our reliance on cars, we will be updating our bike plan and pedestrian and access mobility plan looking at how we move around the Shire.
‘As well as progressing our place plans for Byron Bay, Bangalow and Mullumbimby we are developing a precinct plan for the Byron Arts and Industry Estate, which is growing day by day.
‘We are keen to continue our effective partnerships with community and stakeholders and will be looking to develop a “Byron Model” for deliberative democracy so our community is front and centre of every decision.
‘Given how fast technology is advancing our teams will be working to see how we can conduct more business online and also ensure we are protected from emerging risks in this space.
‘We will be implementing a public art strategy and rolling out a wellbeing framework.’
As for draft fees and charges, the mayor said, ‘While no- one likes to be charged for services, it is an important way for Council to fund its programs.
‘Nearly half of our fees have remained the same and of those that increased, a third of those were by less than two per cent.’
Mayor Richardson says the money to fund the budget comes from a range of sources including: ‘User charges and fees (21.84 per cent), grants and contributions for capital purposes (22.29 per cent), rates (21.84 per cent, annual charges (18.26 per cent), grants and contributions for operating purposes (5.61 per cent), interest and investment revenue (1.87 per cent) and other revenue (1.84 per cent).’
Public budget estimates, June 6
A public access (Budget Estimates) meeting is planned for June 6 from 9.30am till 5pm in Council Chambers.
Register your question/s at yoursaybyronshire.com.au or by emailing [email protected] Feedback on the Draft Budget ends June 15.