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INVESTIGATIONNEWS 9 Mergers under fire as rates, debt soar Rising billsCouncils hit mean extra work shifts credit limits Kelmeny Fraser RISING rates and fees have forcedGROWING Simmone Miszuk to take on extra RATES have jumped by up to PAINS shifts at work. 30 per cent since Queens-Both Simmone and husband lands controversial council Rate rises of up to 30% Walter work, but with two primary amalgamations, defying prom- since mergers school-aged children, Mrs Miszukises of cost savings. said she had been forced to take onAnd debt has leapt to record Water bills jumped up to an extra shift to make ends meet. levels, with struggling councils 40% in one year inThe couple, who live in Margateapproaching their maximumsoutheast in the Moreton Bay Regional credit limit three years after Council area north of Brisbane, pay the State Government pushed Council debt tripled in four $1200 a month in mortgage through its controversialyears to hit $6 billion by repayments, $300 a month on council reforms against wide-2012 school fees for Alek, 6, and Lily, 8, spread community opposition. and $325 a quarter just on their While some mayors said water bills.benefits had emerged, rate- Financial documents for aThe Miszuk family had an payers have complained sky-dozen merged councils show annual rates bill of $1729 in rocketing rates and fees,they have become mired in 2007-08. Their total bill for thismounting debt and staff blow-debt since the amalgamation, financial year, including water, will outs paint a different picture.with an average debt per come to $2651.60 mostly driven It comes amid a war ofcapita of $1153. Borrowings by by increases in water and sewerage. words over whether the Bligh the 12 merged councils roseMrs Miszuk said rising rates bills Governments plans to dis- from about $880 million be- had added to the rising living costs, mantle the southeasts water fore the amalgamations to forcing her to scrimp and scrapedistribution system will cap $1.7 billion this financial year. to afford the basics. steep water price rises.Townsville City CouncilIt is quite a lot extra you have to Natural Resources Ministerloans soared by more than find and we have had mortgage Stephen Robertson said estab-$200 million since 2008 to increases as well, she said.lishing the retailers had cost $390 million more thanWe still want to do school $80 million, and he did not$2000 of debt per person. holidays and have a lifestyle asbelieve it would be as expens-Local Government Associ- well, so to do that and pay all the ive to dissemble.ation of Queensland executive extra rates I have had to pick up an But councils estimate scrap-director Greg Hallam said extra days work. ping the three retailers and councils would soon be forcedMrs Miszuks mother Paulinereturning water to councilsto stop borrowing and ration McDonnell, 72, who also lives atcould cost at least $300 mil-spending as they grew close to Margate, is refusing to pay the lion.reaching their credit limits. He increase in sewerage and water Councils have reached bor-blamed population growth and fees. rowing limits, with loan repay-the need to upgrade infra-Doing it tough: Simmone Miszuk,ments expected to chew-upstructure in areas neglected bywith children Alek, 6, and Lily, 8, andabout 30 per cent of their councils over past decades formother Pauline has had to take onrevenue. Council debt will driving up debt.extra shifts to make ends meet.have tripled from $2 billion to $6 billion by June next year,Council rates comparison hitting $8.5 billion by 2014.P10-11JeJetstars Fare-well Summer Sale Hamilton Island 49 *$ Brisbane to: Perth $139# Bali (Denpasar via Darwin) $278Fares are one way JetSaver Light^ fares carry-on baggage only. JetSaver fares with 20kg checked baggage allowance can be booked for $10$15 more per passenger,per domestic ight sector and $35 more per passenger, per international ight sector. 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