Council votes on new fees schedule
Douglas Shire Council has moved to adopt the Schedule of Fees and Charges for 2020/21, during a special Council meeting today.
Chief Financial Officer Tara Killeen said the new schedule was more equitable and more aligned to a ‘user pays’ system for services provided.
“Wherever possible, an increase in fees and charges has been restrained to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 2.2 per cent,” she said.
The motion was passed three votes to two with Councillors Roy Zammataro and Abigail Noli voting against.
During the meeting, which was live-streamed on Council’s Facebook page, Cr Zammataro said, despite most fees and charges only rising in line with the CPI, he believed it was not the time for any increases.
“Almost everyone in Douglas has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The proposed rise of 2.2 per cent is not going to make a huge difference to Council’s bottom line.
“But it can be argued that any rise of the already struggling ratepayers of this shire will create further financial hardships.”
Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said staff and Councillors worked hard to achieve a sensible and realistic increase in line with the CPI.
“We have put in place various initiatives to help small businesses where we can and will continue to identify opportunities to help our local community,” he said.
“I am committed to exhausting all revenue-raising options before considering any increases above CPI.”
During the meeting, Mayor Kerr added that Council needed to recoup its costs and a CPI increase is a correct and appropriate way to handle it.
“Having a case were our ratepayers could potentially be contributing towards these user pays services brought about by a lower than required rate increases would be ludicrous.”
He added that Council needed to remain financially responsible with the COVID recovery relief measures Council has already implemented contributing “largely to the predicted $1.4 million deficit now forecasted by this Council in this financial year.”
While the increase to the majority of the fees and charges has been contained to 2.2 per cent, there are a small number of instances where a fee or charge has increased above the preceding rate where necessary to align with the cost of the service.
Similarly, there has also been no change in some fees and reductions in others.
A case where the fees have lowered is the hiring of Rex Smeal Park for wedding receptions or parties, while other sections of public parks are also available to hire.
The hire fee for Rex Smeal Park is now $555.50 per day for a wedding ceremony or party under 100 people or $708 per day for over 100 guests, down from a flat rate of $744 per day
A more equitable pricing structure was also adopted for larger events at the park.
Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr said the reduced fee is aimed at supporting local wedding and event industries.
“Rex Smeal Park is one of the region’s most stunning locations,” he said.
“The tropical scenery creates a really great vibe for events and makes for some wonderful imagery.”
Other highlights adopted today include a new fee category for local not for profit and school groups and a ‘wet season’ discount (January to March) for Port Douglas Markets stallholders.
Council also added a new 4.5-metre frontage option for stallholders and stopped any increases to stallholder fees.
All new fees and charges come into effect from July 1, 2020.
See the full schedule of fees and charges for 2020/21 here.
Watch the Special Council Meeting below:
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