Some pain in $5m sav­ings: Coun­cil­lor

Geraldton Guardian - - News - David Sal­vaire

City of Greater Geraldton coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously this week to pass the 2016-17 bud­get, but not be­fore some mem­bers ex­pressed con­cerns about cuts to com­mu­nity ser­vices and pro­grams.

Will­cock Ward Coun­cil­lor Re­nee El­lis said de­spite the City show­ing fis­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity in draft­ing the bud­get, which cuts the City deficit by $5.1 mil­lion, the cuts to a range of ser­vices were dis­ap­point­ing.

“This is not the time of milk and honey as it used to be and it’s sad to see a lot of our pro­grams go in­clud­ing so­cial sup­ports and cul­ture and the arts,” Cr El­lis said.

“This has been a big blow to the City be­cause it’s worked very hard over the years to de­velop an econ­omy in arts.”

Coun­cil­lor Graeme By­lund echoed Cr El­lis’ con­cerns and said he hoped the City would re­visit some of the pro­grams and ser­vices at a later date af­ter its $78 mil­lion spend on in­fra­struc­ture this fi­nan­cial year.

“I re­alise things are tough and we’ve had to tighten belts and make changes,” he said.

“I’m hop­ing with a bud­get like this that we can progress and spend a bit on in­fra­struc­ture and get our City back up and run­ning with the view that, in the com­ing years, we can come back and look at these pro­grams that we’ve lost.”

The City said the deficit re­duc­tion, from $7.3 mil­lion to $2.2 mil­lion, was a re­sult of ef­fi­ciency and pro­duc­tiv­ity gains in­clud­ing a 20 per cent re­duc­tion in staff.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City had lis­tened to com­mu­nity con­cerns af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial 7.6 per cent rate rise in 2013.

Un­der this year’s bud­get, Mullewa ratepay­ers on min­i­mum rates will be hit with an in­crease from $600 to $1010, be­cause of State Gov­ern­ment or­ders to bring rates in line with Geraldton.

Most Geraldton res­i­dents will see a rate rise be­low in­fla­tion. Oth­ers will see a freeze.

City of Greater Geraldton coun­cil­lors have voted to main­tain the Her­itage Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee de­spite a rec­om­men­da­tion from City of­fi­cers that it be dis­solved.

The 14-0 de­ci­sion arose af­ter Will­cock ward coun­cil­lor Re­nee El­lis moved to con­tinue the com­mit­tee while re­duc­ing the fre­quency of meet­ings and mem­ber num­bers.

The com­mit­tee will now meet twice per cal­en­dar year, with a min­i­mum of five mem­bers re­quired to at­tend.

Cr El­lis said she made the mo­tion af­ter re­ceiv­ing feed­back from the com­mu­nity, and praised the City’s ap­proach to her­itage mat­ters.

“The City has al­ways had a role in lead­ing with her­itage and has won awards to that ef­fect,” she said.

“To­day we re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence from the com­mu­nity re­quest­ing that we don’t dis­solve the com­mit­tee.”

The pro­posal pre­sented to the coun­cil to dis­solve the HAC listed bud­get cuts and staff re­duc­tions at Geraldton Re­gional Li­brary as rea­sons for the rec­om­men­da­tion.

The com­mit­tee was es­tab­lished in 2011 to ad­vise the coun­cil on the de­vel­op­ment and pro­vi­sion of her­itage ser­vices and fa­cil­i­ties.

In re­sponse to a ques­tion put by the coun­cil, City chief ex­ec­u­tive Ken Diehm said the col­lec­tion of her­itage ma­te­ri­als was on­go­ing.

“We’re con­tin­u­ing to re­source lo­cal her­itage and we’re con­tin­u­ing to take oral his­to­ries as well as cat­a­logue, archive, record and store them,” he said.

“We will find a way to re­source this if the coun­cil re­solves to con­tinue the Her­itage Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.”

The last HAC meet­ing, sched­uled in Fe­bru­ary, did not have the min­i­mum num­ber of mem­bers re­quired.

Port ward Cr Bob Hall said the dis­so­lu­tion of HAC would likely be met with crit­i­cism.

“I think if we threw the baby out with the bath­wa­ter in this par­tic­u­lar pro­gram, we’d have our head in our hands with a lot of other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity who dis­tinctly have an at­tach­ment to the her­itage of Geraldton,” he said.

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