Published on 09 May 2016
Well it’s budget time again – the Federal and State budgets have come and gone and they’ve all been a bit on the underwhelming side for our local community. There’s some potential for us to leverage funding from a number of pools of money, but not a lot specifically for our region.
In terms of our local budget, Council’s Draft 2016/17 Budget is set to be discussed at a Special Council Meeting to be held on this Wednesday 11 May.
As with previous budgets, this document will detail the resources required over the next year to fund the large range of services we provide to the community. It will set out where we plan to invest in infrastructure, buildings and operational assets, as well as funding proposals for a range of operating projects.
As Councillors, it is our job to listen to community sentiment and understand your priorities. Since we started our term in 2012, we have consistently heard you tell us that Council’s services some of the most important and valuable services in our community. We need to find ways be financially responsible, keep rates as low as possible and maintain these services. And we have been doing just this through a systematic Sustainability Review of all Council services and departments.
We know our community has a limited capacity to absorb continual rates increases and as such, we are identifying not only efficiency and savings opportunities, but also investigating additional and alternative revenue sources such as grants.
I know from discussions with Council staff that there have been new challenges thrown our way this year by both State and Federal Governments and these will be reflected in the budget.
Cost shifting is a major issue. This isn’t something that has necessarily happened all at once. Slowly we’ve been asked to “over-see” State Government projects and then, once the community comes to rely on those projects, the funding has been steadily and stealthily reduced. School Crossing supervisors, home care programs and libraries are just some of the services where our funding has been reduced over time.
Rate capping has now been introduced and because of our previous hard work, we did not feel it necessary to apply to the Essential Services Commission (ESC) for a variation or increase of this rate, as a number of other Victorian Councils chose to do.
However, ratepayers should be aware that this year all properties in our municipality will be subject to revaluation by the Valuer General. And while Council proposes an average rate increase in line with the 2.5% rate cap, the actual rate increases experienced by individual ratepayers will vary depending on the outcome of those valuations.
As a Council we will continue to focus on the identification of sustainable cost reductions to protect existing service levels. We will also explore new approaches for providing services to our community in a tighter fiscal environment and ensure that we engage with you on any planned changes.
I look forward to discussing the finer detail in the budget and hope you will take some time to give us feedback and work with us to help keep our community moving forward into the future.
Cr Glenn Milne
Phone: (03) 5018 8100
Fax: (03) 5021 1899
After hours emergencies: 1800 241 540
Post: PO Box 105 Mildura VIC 3502
DX Mail: DX 50014 Mildura