Cuts will be a challenge
Shire CEO says council in strong financial position to cope with impacts
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.”