Cuts will be a chal­lenge

Shire CEO says coun­cil in strong fi­nan­cial po­si­tion to cope with im­pacts

Euroa Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BY WILL MUR­RAY ed­i­tor@

THE Shire of Strath­bo­gie, along with the other 19 small shires across Vic­to­ria, will have to con­tend with State Gov­ern­ment fund­ing cuts in 2017, a move the Au­di­tor Gen­eral has warned puts their fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity at risk.

Steph Ryan (MLA, Euroa) warned last week that the re­moval of the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment In­fra­struc­ture Fund and the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion of a $1 mil­lion an­nual as­sis­tance pack­age will heap fur­ther pres­sure on the al­ready fi­nan­cially con­strained shire.

“So much of what lo­cal gov­ern­ments do is fo­cused around the de­liv­ery of ser­vice and the up­keep con­struc­tion of in­fra­struc­ture,” Ms Ryan said.

“The re­moval of the mil­lion dol­lar pay­ment will re­ally hurt the abil­ity of the Strath­bo­gie Shire to keep lo­cal roads and bridges up to stan­dard, as well as con­tinue to de­liver the same level of ser­vices.”

Small shires like Strath­bo­gie were pre­vi­ously able to ac­cess the pool of money in the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment In­fra­struc­ture Fund to help them ob­tain the cap­i­tal nec­es­sary to ful­fil the match­ing re­quire­ment of ap­ply­ing for State and Fed­eral grants.

With­out this fund, smaller, poorer shire’s will not be able to come up with the match­ing fund­ing from rates alone, and will there­fore be at a dis­ad­van­tage to larger, wealth­ier ar­eas ac­cord­ing to Ms Ryan.

“Small coun­cils across the state are fore­cast­ing a 42.5 per cent re­duc­tion in cap­i­tal grants. In­com­ing councillors will have sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges to deal with as a re­sult of these fund­ing cuts,” Ms Ryan said.

“The Au­di­tor Gen­eral has warned the small sire coun­cil co­hort is fac­ing an in­creased fi nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity risk, with bud­get pro­jec­tions for the next three fi­nan­cial years show­ing a fall in ex­pected rev­enue.”

Strath­bo­gie Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Steve Craw­cour ac­knowl­edged the cuts by the State Gov­ern­ment pre­sented the shire with bud­get- ary chal­lenges, how­ever said the coun­cil was in a strong po­si­tion to cope with the changes.

“Although we, like other small ru­ral coun­cils, have lost grant fund­ing through the fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments, Strath­bo­gie Shire Coun­cil is still in a strong fi­nan­cial po­si­tion,” he said.

“We have min­imised the im­pact this fund­ing cut through sig­nifi cant staff re­struc­tures, shared ser­vices with Moira Shire and Greater Shep­par­ton City coun­cils and no bor­row­ings for our 201617 bud­get.

“The newly elected coun­cil will need to be mind­ful of these cuts on lo­cal gov­ern­ment when de­vel­op­ing its re­vised long term fi­nan­cial plan, Coun­cil Plan and Bud­gets.”

With rate-cap­ping lim­it­ing the abil­ity of the shire to raise the funds through its al­ready com­par­a­tively high rate-pay­ing con­stituents, Ms Ryan was less op­ti­mistic about the abil­ity of the coun­cil to cope with such cuts to the bud­get bot­tom line.

“Strath­bo­gie is a large shire in terms of its ge­og­ra­phy, but has a small pop­u­la­tion,” she said.

“It is there­fore ex­pen­sive to main­tain due to the amount of in­fra­struc­ture it must look af­ter with a lim­ited amount of money.

“With­out as­sis­tance, roads will de­te­ri­o­rate and coun­cils will be un­able to pro­ceed with im­por­tant lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture projects.”

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