By David Sharaz & Renee Bogatko
ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer Andrew Barr has achieved his dream to deliver a budget surplus, but it will come at a cost.
Today’s ACT Budget, Mr Barr’s seventh, shows balanced books with a predicted surplus – for the first time in five financial years – of $36m over 2018-19.
Mr Barr can also claim, come the end of this financial year, he’s already delivered a modest surplus of $32m.
The future’s looking good too, with forward estimates predicting more surpluses, rising to $52m by 2021-22.
What will it cost?
Canberrans will be paying for it with increased rates and small rises to levies and fees.
For example, car registration rises by 5% - that’s $18 extra per year.
Driver licence fees are up by 5% (some of which is offset by the safe driver discount for those with a clean record), parking fees are rising by 6% and parking fines will also go up by 6%.
Rates are rising by 7% - equating to an extra $172 per year for the average Canberra home owner and $135 for unit owners.
Who are the big winners?
First home buyers are the biggest winners with the ACT Government abolishing stamp duty for anyone with a household income of less than $160,000 from July 1, 2019.
That’s a saving of $9700 on a $450,000 home or $15,720 on a $600,000 home.
Whether you’re buying a new or existing home for the first time, you won’t pay stamp duty.
It does, however, come at the expense of the First home Buyers Grant ($7000) which is to be abolished when the new scheme kicks in next year.
The government will invest $1.3b in education. That includes the new Molonglo Primary School and expanding the Amaroo, Gold Creek, and Neville Bonner schools.
An additional 66 teachers will be employed, to join the 3,800 already in the workforce.
Healthcare receives $1.7b in this year’s budget, which goes towards things like an Emergency Department upgrade at Calvary Hospital, more staff and patient beds across the board and new supported accommodation properties for mental health patients, just to name a few!
Road safety also gets a significant boost, with plans to duplicate William Slim Drive from Ginninderra Drive to the Barton Highway.
Over $8m will go towards upgrading a number of Belconnen intersections and $1.25m for planning and design of the John Gorton Drive extension and a bridge across the Molonglo River.
The ACT Government will also match the Commonwealth’s commitment of up to $100m to upgrade the Monaro Highway.
And in a bid to get Canberrans out of their cars and onto public transport, $10m will be set aside to advance the technical and design aspects of the light rail from the city to Woden, with another $2.5m for the preparation of business cases for potential early works.
$150,000 will also go towards a light rail stop for Mitchell.
Canberra’s events are also getting more funding, with the ACT Government to spend $7.6m to boost Enlighten, Australia Day celebrations, SpringOUT and the Canberra Writers Festival.
There’s also plans for a new theatre complex, to deliver bigger acts to Canberra – aimed to be shovel ready by 2020.
While, $1.5m will be spent on upgrading the existing Canberra Theatre and $350,000 to upgrade the Canberra Museum and Gallery.
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