Mount Isa City Council has strongly defended its increased travel budget in a question and answer session at last Wednesday's council meeting.
Danielle Slade used the public forum section of the council meeting to ask why council travel had increased so markedly in the last few years whether the money would be better spent on rebates to water charges.
Ms Slade said that travel expenditure had risen from around $15,000 during the administration of previous mayor Tony McGrady to $82,764 in year 16/17 and up to $94,142 in year 17/18, the vast majority of which was spent on travel by the mayor, deputy mayor and CEO.
"We are living in an age of modern technically, where voice and video conferencing is now a normal part of the business day," Ms Slade said. "We have businesses and residents who have seen increases from anywhere from 5% to 500% in the rates, it's devastating and it will impact on the city."
Cr George Fortune, sitting in the mayor's chair in the absence of Mayor Joyce McCulloch and deputy mayor Phil Barwick, said the travel was necessary to get face-to-face meetings with minister and other decision makers to attract much-needed grant funding to the City without which big infrastucture projects would not possible to achieve on the capacity of rate-payers alone.
"This Council has full support for their travel," Cr Fortune said.
Council also defended their new water charging regime in a letter from CEO Sharon Ibardolaza in response to a query from Ms Slade. Ms Ibardolaza said Council raised $16.25m from water access and consumption charges, grants, and user fees but spent $16.93m than that on essential operations, maintenance, and asset replacement plus another $2.05m of non-cash depreciation costs.
"Part of the costs include paying the State Government (Mount Isa Water Board and Sunwater) almost $11m for the city's water, and this cost is shared across less than 7000 ratepayers," Ms Ibardolaza said."The water function will make a cash loss of $680,000 this year, and have a net deficit of $2.7m."
Ms Ibardolaza said most places with the new charging system are seeing positive change for household finances and environmental outcomes.
"Ms Slade states that she doesn't believe that Mount Isa residents are saving as much money as we have calculated, and I can assure her that they have," she said.
"We are meeting and talking with community members regularly to look at what impact these changes are having."
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