By YVONNE McLEAN
THE Gold Coast City Council has begun its final deliberations on the 2005-2006 budget to be brought down by finance committee chairman Cr Rod Molhoek on Friday, June 17.
Several issues continue to be hotly debated, but one certainty is that the rates and charges bill will increase - $100 or slightly more on top of last year's bills is tipped.
Water charges are a contention and Cr Daphne McDonald has given notice she will vote against the budget if those charges are too steep - just as she did last year.
For the first time, a number of councillors are urging a system of averaging the unimproved capital value of land (as valued by officers of the government's natural resources department) over three years.
This system would provide some rating relief to those property owners in beachside suburbs hard hit year after year by huge property values.
"This year the UCV has been more evenly spread over the Gold Coast and those property owners in suburbs with a low valuation previously have moved up the ladder and for them, that's good news, giving their land more prestige, so to speak," Cr Ted Shepherd said.
Cr Chris Robbins for one has publicly declared her support for assessing the general rate on the averaging system.
Cr Shepherd said a proposed levy to fund flood prevention and drainage works throughout the city had been dropped.
Instead, this work would be funded from the rates income.
"Council had been looking at far too many levies," he said.
Existing levies, transport and the open space acquisition levy will increase, transport from $15 to $25 and open space or green levy from $32 to $39. A portion of open space goes to the Regional Botanic Garden project at Rosser Park. The cost of water to consumers is being hotly debated.
A proposal is for the charge per kilolitre to increase from 95 cents to $1.03, but some councillors support maintaining the 95 cents charge, unless there is a commensurate reduction in the so-called service fee of $129 billed annually.
Last year Cr Daphne McDonald took the unusual step of voting against the budget because she objected to the water costs per KL increasing from 75 cents to 95 cents.
"If the 95 cents goes up without a suitable cut to the service fee I'll again be voting against the budget," she said. "Arbitrarily increasing water usage cost without reducing the service fee does not acknowledge the determination of the majority of property owners who do all they possibly can to support council in its water conservation policies," Cr McDonald said.