EXCLUSIVE: Maranoa councillors discuss the future budget, portfolios
NOW that Maranoa councillors have settled into their roles for over two months, The Western Star posed three questions to each member to see what they have been up to and what their plans are for the future budget.
1. What project or issue have you been focusing on since being elected? And why was this issue or project so important to you to focus on straight away?
2. What portfolio do you hope to receive and why?
3. Are you confident this council will deliver a budget that will pass on a rate decrease to Maranoa ratepayers for the first time in several years?
The Western Star approached all councillors, however mayor Tyson Golder and councillors George Ladbrook and Mark Edwards did not respond before publication.
Deputy Mayor Geoff McMullen
1. I haven’t singled out any individual project at this point in time.
2. Council haven’t decided on portfolios at this point in time, I don’t believe portfolios are a requirement under the local government act, I believe it is important that all councillors have the opportunity to have input into all areas of council, being the portfolio chair of a particular area doesn’t give a councillor any more authority over their colleagues
3. While budgetary discussions are still in process I would hope council can settle on.
1. Our main focus as a council has been on developing the 20/21 annual budget which is a very busy period but is made even more challenging with how close it occurs after the local government election. I have been strongly advocating for the adoption of the Big Rig project, there has never been a more important time to see major investment like the Bigger Big Rig project and the long term benefits that our region will feel in boosting our tourism products.
2. To date council has not had a discussion on portfolios and the benefits of the model. I think this is something that will and needs to occur after the adoption of the annual budget.
3. I am hoping that a financially responsible budget is adopted that considers the current economic challenges while also taking into account the long term sustainability of the region along with the delivery of key services to our residents.
1. My focus since being elected has been to undertake all of the Induction modules offered by the Department of Local Government. I have also been busy accessing background information on Policies and Procedures listed on the Maranoa Regional Council website. We have been attending weekly Council meetings (either Special or Ordinary) and accessing Briefing sessions. Many of the agenda items which we have been deliberating over have involved applications by Maranoa individuals, clubs and business who have been experiencing financial difficulties since the COVID 19 restrictions have been introduced. We have been actively seeking to defer rates and lease costs for coming months to enable them to get “back on the feet”. Councillor Wendy Taylor and I have been walking around Roma and meeting with Roma business owners one day per week since elected to introduce ourselves and to gauge specific concerns being expressed by our local businesses or problems being experienced. We have endeavoured to follow up all matters being identified as needing addressing by MRC. I have also been contacted by individual residents and am seeking to be responsive to all who contact me. We are now also being invited to local Community Action Groups which is enabling us to be actively involved in priorities associated with our local town improvement groups.
2. COVID 19 restrictions have been problematic for our newly elected council and posed restrictions on community meetings. We have not established portfolios to date, but I am very happy to accept personal involvement and responsibilities in any council related groups or associations where I can “value add”. As having a career in education for over 37 years, I am particularly passionate about advancing opportunities for young people and ensuring that they have an active voice in the Maranoa.
3. I have attended all council meetings and briefings since being elected and am confident that this new term of council will be able to implement a “no rate increase” in the next year. COVID 19 has had a significant effect of many in our communities and we are very mindful of trying to reduce the financial difficulties being experienced by many in our local areas. Fiscally sustainable budgets can be achieved by thoughtfully considering and balancing both income sources and expenditure requirements, and I have been part of Council discussions where we are focusing on “how” to keep rates at a realistic amount and not seek any increases, as well as considering the “what” are committed fundings and “what” is discretionary moneys. We individually as councillors and collectively as the Maranoa Regional Council will seek to achieve a positive budget for these difficult times.
1. Personally, I haven’t been focused on one issue or project but as a newly elected councillor, I have been focusing on understanding all the facts and implications of every issue that we have made decisions on.
2. As yet council have not spoken about portfolio’s, personally I believe portfolios are important. I personally believe it is important to match councillors strengths with a relative portfolio.
3. Council has a lot to consider before the budget is handed down and promises are made but personally I believe Council will work towards supporting the community as best they can while remaining financially viable.
1. I have been trying to focus my attention on trying to get the town looking tidy, I have had a lot of people who are very sadden my how sad our town looks – tired even. Also have been out and about with Julie Guthrie to introduce ourselves to the Maranoa starting with Mitchell Road. One of our focuses was to get feedback from the community in relation to The Bigger Big Rig project.
2. I am not 100 per cent sure what the portfolio situation is. We have not had a discussion on them yet. If I have a choice, it would be to do with local business – anything but roads.
3. Will we be able to pass on a rate decrease in our budget of that I am not sure? We are just about to start our budget meetings, so I’m in no real position to answer that question today.
1. The Budget has been the main focus point at this stage, as well as reviewing road issues and of course the Bigger Big Rig Project.
2. We haven’t spoken of portfolios yet. As a councillor I would like to be involved in every Council topic if possible.
3. Personally I would like to think so but at the moment we are going through a lot of information to get us up to speed as new councillors. It’s a big process and we want to get it right.