SOUTH Gippsland ratepayers will pay the lowest rate rise in at least 10 years.
Council will abide by the State Government’s rate cap that will restrict the rate increase to 2.5 per cent.
No services or community works projects will be sacrificed to adhere to the cap, CEO Tim Tamlin said.
Council will still spend $19.97 million on capital works – higher than last year’s expenditure of $18.47 million. Capital projects include the Karmai Integrated Children’s Centre, roads, footpaths, pools (Mirboo North, Poowong, Korumburra, Toora) and playground replacement program, including at Sandy Point, Korumburra, Bena, Fish Creek.
Council released its 2016-17 draft budget last week.
Mr Tamlin said council did not consider applying for a variation to the rate cap, believing it had done enough in previous years to function under the cap.
“We have strategised effectively over the past two years to combat any oncoming rate cap. It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve planned well and have managed our finances,” he said.
“We looked at the current budget and decided we couldn’t justify a rate cap variation. Politically, it would be hard to achieve and the extra workload it would require to produce two draft budgets would’ve been enormous. Council decided it was best for the shire not to pursue a variation.”
The proposed budget totals $66.9 million, with rates and charges consisting of $39.9 million.
Mr Tamlin said council had hoped the Essential Service Commission (ESC) would recommend a rate rise of 2.8 per cent, but Minister of Local Government Natalie Hutchins pushed for a Consumer Price Index increase of 2.5 per cent.
Last year’s council restructure contributed to internal savings, as did a review of council salaries and tighter budgeting on future council building constructions.
This has contributed to ongoing savings of around $200,000.
To ensure council still functions efficiently while remaining cost effective, Mr Tamlin said the six Gippsland CEOs signed a collaborative services agreement to share services to save money.
“Part of the collaborative services agreement is to have shared risk management with Baw Baw Shire, which will reduce our EFT (equivalent full time staff) by half,” he said.
“Ratepayers will not see a difference in our services.”
The removal of councillor discretionary funds amounted to a saving of $38,000 to combat the rate cap. The discretionary fund allowed councillors $4000 each to fund community projects in their wards, with an additional $2000 for the mayor.
“The benefit of the discretionary fund was the quick turnaround provided for community projects that the community grants program couldn’t achieve. We will review the community grants program and look at how we can accommodate the intent of the discretionary fund,” council’s corporate and community director Jan Martin said.
Mayor Cr Bob Newton said rates revenue enabled council to deliver services.
“By paying your rates, council is able to provide over 150 services to the community that helps assist with the health and wellbeing of our residents and development of South Gippsland,” he said.
Ms Martin said the outcome of the draft budget was heavily influenced by the OurSay community engagement program, which ran over several workshops last year.
The community will have the opportunity to consider the budget and make formal written submissions until April 27.
Council is scheduled to formally consider and adopt the 2016-17 budget at its meeting on June 22.
Short URL: /?p=17831