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Sunday, December 6, 2020
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Budget spends big on infrastructure

The ACT Government’s 2019-20 budget outlines Canberra’s biggest program of infrastructure investment ever, with over $3 billion being invested in various projects over the next four years, despite no new major projects being announced.

The ACT Budget 2019-20 sees significant resources go toward hospital programs, building new schools, public transport improvements, new and renewed public housing, and a variety of emergency services upgrades.

With the huge infrastructure investment comes an $89 million deficit for the 2019-20 financial year, which the Government says is a deliberate choice made “in the short term because building for Canberra’s future is more important at this point in our city’s growth”.

“Canberra is one of the fastest growing communities in Australia, so we have to invest now to make sure our hospitals and healthcare centres, our schools, social infrastructure and transport networks are ready in the new decade,” said ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

The Government puts going into the red down to a lack of federal funding.

“The past six years have been characterised by a lack of investment in Canberra by the Coalition Government,” the budget papers read.

“The ACT has received just 0.8% of national infrastructure funding during the Coalition’s last two terms. This translates to around half what our per capita share would be, a shortfall of about $307 million since the Coalition took office.”

Meanwhile, rates will continue to rise for residential and commercial properties, with non-unit titled residential properties expecting an average 7% rise, unit titled residential properties 11% rise on average, and commercial properties a 6% rise on average.

The estimated outcome for 2018-19 for residential general rates revenue is $359.1 million, rising to $388.4 million in 2019-20 due to a larger property base and tax reform.

The estimated outcome for 2018-19 for commercial general rates revenue is $199.1 million, while the forecast for 2019-20 is $211 million.

Meanwhile land tax revenue, which applies to any residential property that is not the owner’s principal place of residence, including residential property owned by a trust or corporation, will rise from $141 million in 2018-19 to $150.9 million in 2019-20.

“We understand that some households are feeling the impact of tax reform through their rates bills, which is why I want to reassure Canberrans that the heaviest lifting of this reform has been achieved,” Mr Barr said.

“Over these forward estimates, the rate of growth in rates will slow as we move towards the next five-year phase of the tax reform program.”

Road users will see a slight bump in the cost of registering their vehicle, as the Government spends $17.6 million establishing the Motor Accident Injuries Commission (MAIC) to regulate the new Motor Accident Injuries Scheme.

The Commission will replace the existing CTP Regulator and have expanded functions. It will be funded by a MAIC Levy, costing $16 per annum per motor vehicle registration when it commences in 2019-20.

At a glance

Education

  • A new $43.9 million Throsby primary school to open in 2022.
  • Kenny High School will come online in 2023, catering for 800 students in years 7-10.
  • The Franklin Early Childhood School to grow its permanent capacity to 600 students across Kindergarten to Year 6 at a cost of $29.4 million.
  • $16 million will be spent on delivering energy-efficient heating upgrades for ACT public schools.
  • $41.6 million will fund the equivalent of 92 full-time learning professionals and support staff.

Emergency Services

  • A $33.9 million personnel investment that will see ACT Policing recruit 69 more frontline, operational and support staff, which is the single largest investment in ACT Policing this decade.
  • ACT Fire & Rescue will recruit 36 more firefighters through two new recruit colleges.
  • Work will also commence on due diligence and preliminary design for two new combined ACT Ambulance Service and ACT Fire & Rescue stations, to be located in the City and the Molonglo Valley.

Housing

  • A second Common Ground community housing complex will be built in Dickson, to provide 40 housing units for people who are experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness, and affordable rental housing for Canberrans on low incomes.
  • $100 million will be invested over five years in public housing to deliver at least 200 more homes and renew 1,000 properties.
  • The 2019-20 Indicative Land Release Program will see 15,600 sites for homes released over the next four years, including over 5,500 blocks for standalone, single dwelling homes, 488 affordable housing blocks, 140 sites for social and community housing, and 294,085sqm of land for community uses.

Community

  • A $20 million high performance football facility in the Gungahlin suburb of Throsby that will include football pitches and an indoor futsal facility.
  • $9.3 million on more public rubbish and recycling bins, and planting at least 17,000 more trees to renew Canberra’s urban forest.
  • $1.75 million on designing a new Woden community centre in the town centre.

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