Noosa residents are set to have a voice in the preparation of the next Noosa Council Budget.
In what’s tipped to be the first of its type in Queensland, Council will adopt a two-pronged approach to allow the community to have input into developing the 2020-21 Budget.
Mayor Tony Wellington tabled a Mayoral Minute at Thursday’s Ordinary Meeting, which will see the establishment of a Community Budget Reference Group coupled with a broader consultation approach using Council’s Your Say Noosa engagement website.
“It’s important that we continue to build community trust through greater transparency and better public engagement. Understanding Council’s budget decision-making is part of that approach.
The proposed trial that I tabled on Thursday night will allow the community to fully scrutinise and make comment on the budget,” Mayor Wellington said.
“This consultation process will help deliver better understanding about budgetary trade-offs and decisions, including performance challenges, new rates or levies, service levels and financial sustainability requirements, Cr Wellington said.
“We really want diverse representation on the Reference Group, to ensure a variety of informed voices are heard. The Reference Group members will be required to commit to two full day sessions that will be conducted by an independent facilitator,”
“They’ll get complete immersion in the budget details.” Cr Wellington said.
“This will allow representatives to test various ideas, make suggestions and see for themselves how changes to service levels and capital projects can influence costs and thus rates.”
“Councillors will be encouraged to attend the Reference Group sessions as observers, but they will have no involvement in the debate.
“Along with the Reference Group approach, all of Council’s budget workshops will be open to the public, and all of our budget documents will be available on our website. That way any residents, whether they are on the Reference group or not, will have the ability to make a submission on the budget.”
Cr Wellington said it’s important to note that only the elected Councillors can formally approve and adopt a budget
“Under legislation we cannot delegate this responsibility, however, a community consultation process can certainly better inform our decision-making.”
Council’s budget process has been rigorous, pioneering a zero based or build-from-base budget approach, which has been applauded by the Queensland Audit Office.
“Since de-amalgamation, this council has ensured an appropriate balance of ratepayer affordability and service delivery, with minimal rate increases, “the Mayor said.
“We need to better explain to the community the complexities of a council budget process.”
“Hopefully this initial trial is a tangible step to helping the community understand the many complex factors involved in formulating a budget.”
“Other councils have attempted to engage their communities in their budget processes using a variety of methods. None, however, have tried a two-tiered approach involving a reference group as well as open submissions.
“I am hoping this will produce a workable and efficient means of garnering community input into all of our future budget deliberations.” Mayor Wellington said.