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Sunshine Coast ditches rates discounts in return to budget surplus

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Sunshine Coast Council will ditch its on-time rates payment discount to pay for better preparedness for disasters and more frontline services.

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The council’s $816 million budget, announced on Thursday, also includes a rise in rubbish collection fees and a small hike in the environment levy.

However, Mayor Mark Jamieson said there would be no increase in the minimum general rate and said pensioner rate discounts would increase.

The end of the rates discount will help the council deliver an expected $18.8 million surplus next financial year. It would also fund the restoration of a $5 million reserve to help the region cope with future natural disasters.

Jamieson said the five per cent rates discount for early or on-time payment cost the council $10 million a year and was not used by a large proportion of the population.

Presenting a budget heavily focussed on new infrastructure projects, Jamieson said his council spent more on capital works than neighbouring councils, including Moreton Bay Regional Council.

He said the $268 million capital works program would generate a multiplier effect for the region’s economy to “weather the COVID storm” and support 1300 jobs.

“Confidence is the greatest gift any government can give its constituency,” Jamieson said.

“Our council will continue to play its part in supporting local businesses through capital works and procurement.”

Included in the budget is an increase in community grants, including $1 million for community partnerships, and $54 million for libraries, galleries and lifeguard services, including $400,000 for a new library in Sippy Downs and $1.9 million for a new library in Caloundra.

The mayor said the the rise in the environmental levy will go to pay for programs to eradicate invasive weeds and support community groups devoted to bush care.

He said the budget provided the “wherewithal to respond to our community’s greatest needs”.

“We are achieving this without an increase in the minimum general rate and an emphasis on fiscal discipline,” he said.

He said the council aimed a deliver a “safer, secure future focussed on the needs of our community today next year and well into the future”.

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