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Schrinner freezes city's rates for six months, despite $140m revenue hit

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Brisbane residents have been treated to a rates freeze for the first time in 35 years as council reveals its “toughest ever budget” has taken a hit of more than $140 million after the COVID-19 shutdown.

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Handing down the details today, Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said it was the hardest budget council had ever put together — tougher than both the global financial crisis and the 2011 floods aftermath.

“In the 15 years I’ve been a councillor, I have no doubt this was the most challenging budget we have seen,” he said.

In total, the budget suffered a $142.5 million loss in revenue as a result of the pandemic, which was made up of waived parking fees, rates rebates and lost income from developer payments.

Schrinner said the council had worked hard to “keep rates down” and that they would remain frozen until January next year. “There will be no change to rates for six months,” he said.

Rates would then rise by an average of 2.5 per cent, which equated to an average household increase of $15 per year, Schrinner said.

Despite the economic downturn, the Lord Mayor said the city maintained a “slimmer” budget surplus of just under $200 million over the next financial year.

“The surplus is very narrow, but it’s still a surplus,” he said.

The budget has also allocated $840 million for capital works to help “rebuild” the city.

This money will go towards projects already announced, including new CityCats, the Victoria Park Vision and the Brisbane Metro, the cost of which has blown out to $1.2 billion.

Green bridges to go ahead

Schrinner said council’s Green Bridges program would also continue, with two of the proposed bridges being fast-tracked and one in Bellbowrie being reconsidered.

“We’re going to look at other options for the fifth green bridge,” he said.

The council has also slated $90 million for the Smoother Roads project, $9.2 million to revitalise suburban areas and another $7 million for footpaths and parks.

First-home buyers who purchase a new home from October 1 will be offered a 12-month rates rebate.

A 50 per cent annual rates rebate for first home buyers buying an existing home will also remain in place.

Schrinner said this budget was designed to control costs without delaying “essential projects”.

“I’m confident Brisbane will rebound from this,” he said.

But council debt has also risen and the Lord Mayor said he would be seeking financial assistance from the Federal Government to pay it down.

To help save money, council has suspended its kerbside clean-up program for the next two years and wages will be frozen across council, as previously announced.

– ABC / Talissa Siganto

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