UNVEILED: Somerset Valley Regional Council adopted its 2018-19 budget today.
UNVEILED: Somerset Valley Regional Council adopted its 2018-19 budget today. Contributed

Somerset Regional Council hand down 2018-19 budget

SOMERSET residents will cop a 2.5% increase in rates but will benefit from funding to fix the region's failing bridges, develop its tourism potential and improve roads around Mt Beppo under the $44 million 2018-19 budget announced by Somerset Regional Council today.

Highlights of the $44 million budget include $700,000 to promote tourism, including overnight visitors to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail which is nearing completion thanks to federal government funding.

A six-kilometre bitumen shortcut for Mount Beppo residents has been allocated $790,000 and will improve road access to Watts Bridge airfield, which hosted the Red Thunder Air Show in May, attracting 10,000 people.

The council also plans to spend $130,000 on a proposal to pipe water from Wivenhoe Dam to farms along Lockyer Creek, and $85,000 on rooftop solar initiatives.   

Tourism and infrastructure spending will be welcomed by local businesses, Somerset Region Business Alliance vice president Paul Heymans says.

"Whilst the local business community never likes to see an increase of 2.5% in rates we're very pleased that the council is investing in the timber bridges to improve transport for agribusinesses, and also that they're investing $700,000 in promoting tourism which will benefit all businesses in the region,” he said.

With the completion of Australia's longest rail trail, the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail, expected this year the funding is well timed, he agreed.

Evidence of a significant increase in users of the trail was "anecdotal” so far, he said, and the council's contribution of $20,000 toward equipment would help document this use.

Somerset Regional Council's rates were the cheapest in Queensland, a report released in March and reported in the Gatton Star revealed.

"I am proud that our Council remains one of the few debt-free local governments in Queensland and that has been achieved by our commitment to long-term financial sustainability,” Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said in a statement issued today.

The average nett rates and charges in the Somerset region's urban residential rating category will be maintained at $1,061 per year, while the average net rural residential rates and charges at $1,287 per year.  

Biggest spend:

- $2.8 million to ensure closed historic landfill sites at Kilcoy and Jimna meet the highest environmental standards and requirements.

- $7.5 million to replace 12 failing timber bridges.

- $19.4 million on roads, bridges, streets and drainage throughout Somerset.

Nicky Moffat