Councillors will vote on the 2019-20 budget on June 26.
Councillors will vote on the 2019-20 budget on June 26. Aidan Cureton

Budget exclusive: Council ready to deliver 500 projects

WITH 500 projects poised for delivery in this year's budget, councillors are gearing up to have their say.

In the wake of the debacle that was the 2018-19 budget, Mackay Regional Council has had "more meetings" this year in the lead-up to budget day.

Councillors hope to avoid any roadblocks when the budget is handed down this week.

Mayor Greg Williamson said the unprecedented rejection of last year's budget by councillors had resulted in additional discussions relating to rates in recent months.

Last year's budget, had it been endorsed in its original format, would have seen a "banding system" introduced for cane farmers and other agricultural producers.

Councillors Ross Gee, Amanda Camm, Fran Mann, Karen May, Ayril Paton and Justin Englert voted against the revenue statement.

"This year's budget has been derived from four months of budget meetings that councillors have attended," Cr Williamson said.

"A topic of some of those meetings was the rate band, which was the dividing factor last year.

"We've since had an exhaustive inquiry into the banding system that we use."

Cr Marty Bella disagreed, saying the rates review that was promised was a "shallow exercise".

"I don't think it was anywhere near as impactful as it should have been," he said.

Councillors have gathered two to three times a month since February for meetings relating to the budget.

Cr Williamson said there would always be contentious issues that councillors would disagree on, but he was not expecting any issues to divide the room on Wednesday.

He said the "large budget" of about $300 million would include things like the Waterfront PDA and other shovel-ready projects.

About a third of the money would go towards capital expenditure.

"We have about 500 projects on the list, including things like footpaths and the various levels of the PDA," he said.

"Projects that we've been very keen to deliver on include Camilleri Park, Queens Park, North Mackay Rotary lookout, the Bridge Road fishing platform, Bruce Highway bicycle off ramps, the Resources Centre of Excellence, Brewers Road in Sarina, the mountain bike path, endorsing our fishing strategy, the Shoal Point water mural and the Mirani heritage precinct.

"The Northern Beaches community hub, for which we have received Federal funding, is also a major project we are keen to endorse."

Cr Williamson said another major focus of this year's budget would be a bid to reduce the council's loan position in order to maintain a healthy cash position.

"We want to ensure our long-term financial forecast has no surprises, and that happens by us trying to maintain CPI levels," he said.

The budget will go to council for a decision at a special ordinary meeting on June 26.



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