Road funding

It’s a common pattern with government budgets that the really nasty bits are strategically leaked to the media beforehand to soften the blow of the main event.
This budget seems to buck that trend, delivering bad news like a bandaid being pulled off slowly.
It could take weeks or even months for the full effects of the cuts to be realised at a State and local level.
One major blow we do know about is the axing of the supplementary local road funding.
Introduced by the Federal Government in 2004, it was meant to give SA a fairer share of Commonwealth funding for council roads.
The State has 11% of the country’s local roads but under the formula received only 5.5% of the grants.
Regional councils in particular were hard hit, having small populations to pay for the upkeep of large networks of roads.
Now the extra money is gone.
Packaged as time-bound grants, the contract for the latest round of supplementary road funding expires at the end of June.
For this region the loss represents about $900,000 across three councils which is a third of their usual grant monies for roads and represents about 1% of their rate incomes.
Losing a third of anticipated income is a significant hit and ultimately it will have to be paid for by residents.
The easiest way to pay for it will be to increase rates.
For pensioners on fixed incomes already facing the prospect of losing a concession of up to $190 per year on their council rates due to the Federal budget cuts, an extra 1% rate hike would not be welcome.
But unlike the Federal budget (and the State budget), ratepayers do have a say on their council budgets.
Councils are required by law to put their annual business plans out for public consultation before adoption.
The budgets are out now with the Adelaide Hills, Mt Barker and Alexandrina councils proposing rate rises of 2.9%, 5% and 5.5% respectively.
If residents don’t want that to turn into 3.9%, 6% and 6.5%, then they need to come up with some constructive ideas for cutting $300,000 worth of ongoing costs.
It might mean selling assets to reduce ongoing depreciation or reducing spending on sport and recreation.
Cutting road maintenance is not the answer, however.
Significant pressure could also be applied to the local Federal member requesting a strenuous representation in Canberra to have the road funding decision reversed.
Either way … the community has the opportunity to respond.
Time will tell if it has the resolve.