Coun­cil adopts 2020/21 bud­get with a few sur­prises for ru­ral city ratepay­ers

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY STEVE KELLY skelly@ ne­me­dia.com.au

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.

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