Noosa councillors have tabled a plan which gives the community a chance to say how it wants to be involved in shaping future council budgets.
COVID-19 forced a rethink on original plans for a much wider consultation process for the emerging 2020-21 Budget, but councillors remain committed to seeking community feedback.
“Unfortunately given much of the focus has and continues to be about dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it was impractical to conduct an extensive consultation process involving business, residents and community groups for the 20/21 budget,”
“But there’s still a strong commitment from all councillors to get community views in the most meaningful and measured way that provides tangible outcomes,” Noosa Mayor Clare Stewart said.
“These are difficult times and we are faced with difficult decisions,” she said.
Council intends to adopt the 2020-21 Budget on July 10 and has indicated that once there is a clearer understanding over the coming months of the current economic climate and potential for additional revenue, Council will seek community guidance on how any surplus funds could be prioritised and spent.
Councillors unanimously endorsed the resolution at Thursday’s Ordinary Meeting.
Director of Corporate Services Michael Shave said any delays to adopting the budget would have significant financial implications on ratepayers.
“We budget for interest revenue on cash collected and even a one month delay to adopting the budget would cost ratepayers around $35,000,” he said.
Cr Stewart said “There’s still a lot of uncertainty, so it’s important we get some clarity on how the finances are looking after a few months into the new financial year to fully understand the repercussions for our community.”
“If there’s an allocation of additional funding, we’re keen to hear what areas the community would like those funds directed to.”
“Conversely, if there’s less income due to COVID, we will ask the community what services or expenditure should be reduced,” Cr Stewart said.
Cr Stewart said the community will have the opportunity to provide feedback in early October, which would be included in the Budget Review to be considered by Council in November 2020.
“As we move into Budget Review 2, we assure you that your voices will be heard, thoughts valued and opinions and feedback acted upon.”
“All suggestions made will help shape the budget review, which clearly demonstrates our flexible decision-making process and our commitment to listen to community views,” Mayor Stewart said.
A further part to the community engagement centres on seeking input on the type of process the community considers as appropriate for future budgets.
“We want residents to tell us what works best for them and what type of engagement process they would prefer,” she said.
“There are a myriad of ways we could engage with the community, but it’s important to establish a process that is driven by the community.” Cr Stewart said.
“We are determined to provide a platform for the community to help shape the 2021-22 budget and future budgets during this term,
“Is it through a Community Reference Budget Group, community forums, interactive sessions or some other innovative method?” Cr Stewart said.