WASTE COSTS RISE
Council adopts 2020/21 budget with a few surprises for rural city ratepayers
RECYCLING charges will increase by 10 per cent for Wangaratta residents this financial year as a result of industry changes in the way communities process waste.
Following the China ban on recyclable materials, negotiations occurred at a local level between council’s current recycling contractor which resulted in a $5 increase per recycling bin, and this is on top of recycling charges, bringing the fee to $149 per bin for urban and rural landowners.
Waste charges for general and organics bins will increase by six per cent or about $10, from $160 to $170 per 140-litre bin.
The changes were part of council’s 2020/21 budget adopted yesterday afternoon, a document that includes a two per cent rate rise, total operating income of $76.458m, operating expenditure of $70.397m, an operating surplus of $6.061m, capital works expenditure of $29.876m and total new borrowings of $18.291m.
Council’s cash flow is $3.9 million better off than it was eight weeks ago, mainly due to a change in the depreciation of assets.
Significant changes include the creation of a $372k Business and Community Recovery Grants Program, as well as the slashing of several fees and charges to assist businesses, community members and ratepayers, valued at an additional $112k.
The impacts of Covid-19 have now been included in the budget document, with an unfavourable impact of $430k on the 2019/20 Budget.
Council reports that these impacts have largely been offset by prudent financial management, postponing some capital works and reducing non-essential spend.
It has also been successful in gaining $696k in grant funding for weed and pest control, as well as anticipating additional grant income of $2.5m.
Cr Ken Clarke was the only councillor not to support the adoption of the budget and he cited the level of borrowings of $18.29m and a total of $34.485m.
“What I think has been forgotten that come September and the Jobseeker payments cease we’ll have a drop in rates by 15-20 per cent,” he said.
He said that we’re seeing “a fake economy” and that it’s time to “pull in the horns” on spending.
Crs Harry Bussell (south ward) and Harvey Benton (north ward) praised the allocation of $1.8 million in the budget to resheet roads.
“Since 2015 the money spent on gravel resheeting has more than doubled and for rural communities this is very, very important; the gravel roads are the best they’ve been in my lifetime,” Cr Bussell said.
He also commended the $125k for a Milawa infrastructure plan, and with no change to firewood permit costs.
Cr Mark Currie reflected on the last four years and the accomplishments of council which he said has “always been progressing about where to lead Wangaratta”.
Resident Brian Fox submitted commentary around the budget and suggested that its adoption be delayed by two months, however, mayor Dean Rees said delaying the budget 60 days was unlikely to assist council’s financial position. BREAKOUT
Highlights of the Capital Works program include:
(l) $2.55 million on local roads and community infrastructure projects.
(l) $1.8 million on resheeting gravel roads across the municipality. This represents more than 2.5 times the amount spent on gravel resheeting in 2015/16.
(l) $1.5 million will be spent on developing a Regional Playspace at Apex Park. The playspace will meet a range of social and recreational needs of a wide age group ranging from equipment for young children and parents, to a Parkour element for older children and adults.
(l) Completion of the construction of the new aquatic facilities at the Wangaratta Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre (WISAC). The completion of construction works will be coupled with council commencing operating the facilities from November 2020.
(l) Commencement of works at the former Olympic pool site. More details will be shared in the coming months as the community consultation is finalised for the Wareena Park Masterplan.
(l) Completion of the Railway Precinct works, with $5.2 million to be spent during 202/21.
(l) $200,000 on public toilet renewal and upgrade works.
(l) $756,000 on continuing the implementation of improved Information and Communications Technology (ICT) throughout the organisation. This will modernise the systems and tools Council use to deliver services.