13 Jul 2022

Brisbane City Council budget reveals rates rise to recover from flood, COVID-19 pandemic

Brisbane ratepayers will be hit with a nearly 5 per cent rates increase from July 1, the city's highest rates increase in more than a decade.

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner announced the council budget would include a 4.93 per cent rates hike as the city grappled with the combined effects of COVID-19 and recent floods.

For a ratepayer on the lowest minimum rates, the increase per quarter will be $38.48, bringing the lowest rates bill up from $780 to $818 per year.

The council's net debt has grown to $3 billion, up from $2.8 billion, and it faces a $330 million flood recovery bill, plus $220 million of revenue loss from the previous two years of the pandemic.

Mr Schrinner said the budget was "sensible and affordable" with a rate rise below Brisbane's inflation rate of 6 per cent.

"Brisbane already has the cheapest residential rates in south-east Queensland thanks to our years of sensible financial management," he said.

The last time Brisbane residents faced a rates hike near 5 per cent was in 2010-11, when rates tipped 5.04 per cent.

The inner-Brisbane suburb of Grange faces among the highest rates hike of 7.19 per cent, an annual increase of $166.86.

Lota, on the bayside, has the lowest rates increase of just 1.49 per cent, or $24.59.

Rates jump follows 'unusual year'

The council is also moving to tackle Brisbane's housing crisis, charging property owners who rent their homes on the short-term accommodation market an additional 50 per cent in rates – about $600 extra on their rates bill annually.

A new "transitory accommodation" rates category will be added from July 1, in a move the Lord Mayor hopes will encourage property owners to return their homes to the long-term rental market.

Flood-affected home owners who still cannot move back into their homes will be eligible for a $1,000 rates rebate.

Mr Schrinner said he hoped such steep rate hikes would not be on the agenda in future years.

"This is not what it's going to be like going forward, touch wood. We're expecting that things will normalise going forward," the Lord Mayor said.

"I see this year very much as an outlier year. This is an unusual year to have a pandemic, which cost the council $220 million, and then a flood, which cost $330 million.

"That is a year that is one of a kind, and I want it to be one of a kind."

Brisbane City Council said the Gold Coast's residential rates will increase by 4.99 per cent; Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate announced both rates and fees and charges would increase by an average 4.3 per cent.

The Gold Coast's council budget documents notes the general rate increase for the city is 4.99 per cent.

Parking fees to rise, $500m allocated to flood repair

Suburban precinct planning will be undertaken to open up formerly commercial suburbs to more mixed-use and residential development.

The council has already begun neighbourhood planning in areas such as Moorooka, seeking to increase residential density around train stations and commercial precincts.

Ahead of the 2032 Olympics, an international-standard cycling track will be built at the Murarrie Recreational Reserve for $35 million, to be delivered by 2024.

And while the council has paused several park upgrade projects – including scrapping the $30 million Enoggera Creek Sport Precinct plan altogether – the budget includes $244 million for parks and playgrounds in the suburbs.

There will be $500 million allocated over three years to cope with Brisbane's flood repair bill, with $180 million going to community clubs and sports fields, along with financial support from other levels of government.

About $59.6 million will be put to repairing damaged bikeways such as the Kedron Brook Bikeway, $53.4 million to park restoration, and $39 million to road repairs.

The council's drainage budget will also double, to $131 million, while $35 million will be put towards footpaths.

And $11 million will be allocated to implementing recommendations from Paul de Jersey's report into Brisbane City Council's response to the flood disaster in February.

Three-hour street parking fees in Brisbane will increase 25 cents per hour to $5.75 and maximum charges on more than four-hour metered parking spots will be capped at $14.50, a rise of $1 on last year.

Weekend parking between 7am and 7pm increased by the same amounts to $1.75 per hour and a maximum charge of $9.50.

Dog registration fees will also rise by $1.90 with owners of a desexed dog to be charged $41.40 in the first year.

Subsequent years will see owners slugged an extra $2.55 with the fee now $55.20.

Owners of dangerous dogs will pay $29 more to register their pets at $621.85 per year.

Opposition and Greens say not enough being done

Deputy opposition leader Kara Cook said "times are tough" for the people of Brisbane struggling with the increased costs of living and the rates hike would hit hard.

"The rate increase today will see thousands of residents possibly tipped over the edge," she said.

Ms Cook said the Lord Mayor's announcement targeting a 50 per cent rates hikes for short-stay accommodation properties was not enough.

"We have 800,000 dwellings in our city. Around 7,000 of those are Airbnb residences – so less than 1 per cent are falling into this new category of rates. It's going to be a drop in the ocean," she said.

"We're talking about a $4 billion dollar budget. I think Adrian Schrinner and the LNP administration can do much more to help housing affordability and the housing crisis in our city."

Ms Cook said Labor was concerned the council's flagship Brisbane Metro would continue to increase in cost, from the original $944 million to its current budget of $1.7 billion, and more should be invested in the suburbs.

The Lord Mayor said more than 80 per cent of the budget's investment was in the suburbs.

Labor councillor Steve Griffiths said the suburban precinct planning needed to be community-led to ensure "good development" would be prioritised, "not squashed-in, sardine development".

Greens councillor Jonathan Sri said the LNP administration was "clearly taken off-guard by the floods" and not financially prepared to cope.

"Over the last 10 years they've concentrated more and more development and more and more public infrastructure on land that's flood-prone, so they've created this problem for themselves," he said.

He said the budget did not include enough measures to address the housing crisis, describing the short-stay measure and suburban precinct proposals as "tokenistic".

"We welcome the announcement to have a higher rates category for Airbnb properties, but this is crumbs. This doesn't go anywhere near close enough to what's needed."

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-06-15/qld-brisbane-city-council-budget-rates-rise-after-floods/101153448

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