CASHED UP: The council is ready to spend on projects but some residents say this isn't the answer.
CASHED UP: The council is ready to spend on projects but some residents say this isn't the answer. AAP/JOEL CARRETT

Don't spend, cut rates: Response to council freeing up funds

SOME Southern Downs residents have not jumped for joy at the prospect of the Southern Downs Regional Council spending more money on projects, but would prefer a reduction in rates.

After two years of tightening the belt, the Southern Downs Regional Council announced this week it was ready to loosen the purse strings and start spending.

With $35 million in cash reserves and debt at a new low, mayor Tracy Dobie said there would be a new focus on projects.

But residents have questioned whether this is the best way to respond to the region's stronger financial position.

Expressing her views on Facebook, Rosemary Addis raised the idea of cutting rates instead.

"Don't spend, reduce rates and regain the support of those who voted you in, in the first place," she said.

Andrew Gale agreed, commenting that spending was not the answer.

"Ratepayers have been continually smashed by rate rises well above CPI along with other fees for service, invasive pest scheme fines," he said.

"All of this justified by spin about debt left over from the past. Don't spend - reduce rates. Many of this have been trying to say this over and over."

Adam Colrain suggested a few alternative ways to handle the funds.

"Council needs to keep money in reserve and focus on infrastructure renewal and upgrade, not new projects," he said.

Up to this point, the council's priority had been to remove itself from the Queensland Treasury Corporation watch list after it was flagged as being at risk of poor financial sustainability and banned from borrowing.

But with all "red" markers erased and cash in the bank, the council is ready to look at overdue projects such as roads, infrastructure and regional development.

Public toilet upgrades, new dog parks and an expanded mowing and slashing scheme were on a long list of projects Cr Dobie hoped to make headway on.

But the mayor said future spending would balance community desires with projects to attract new residents to the region.

"Council is about to start a plan called Southern Downs at 50,000 that aims to build our population."

The councillors agreed for the need to proceed with careful spending.

"We must continue to keep our foot on the brake, we must still be very conservative and careful with what we do," Cr Dobie said.

Cr Dobie thanked the community for being understanding through a time of tight budgeting.