Draft budget keeps average weekly rate rise to $0.85
May 3, 2018
Colac Otway Shire ratepayers will again be spared the available rate increase of 2.25 per cent under the State Government rate cap, with the Council’s draft 2018/19 budget released for public comment yesterday.
A rise in rates and charges of 2.0 per cent underpins the proposed budget out for public display. It also proposes the Council’s Rural Farm Rate Differential be reduced from 77 to 75 per cent of the Residential Colac Rate.
The proposed rate increase equates to an average 85 cents extra per property, per week.
A further 33 cents a week would be collected for kerbside bin collection under the proposal to recover some of the added cost being incurred due to the recycling crisis. Under the proposal, annual kerbside charges would rise from $298 to $315 for weekly collection and from $198 to $215 for fortnightly collection.
Mayor Joe McCracken said Councillors had focused their budget deliberations on affordability and property owners’ ability to pay.
He said strong advocacy from the farming community, growing uncertainty surrounding the rising cost of recycling and a focus on increasing funding in the area of asset renewal had forced a rethink.
“We had considered a 1.5 per cent rate rise and 13 cents per week waste increase, but ultimately we decided our asset renewal gap and the uncertainty surrounding our recycling costs warranted the 2.0 per cent rate rise and 33 cent kerbside collection increase,” he said.
“It’s important to note that the reduction in the Rural Farm Rate Differential is in response to continuing advocacy from the farming sector regarding the fairness of the current rating system.”
Prior to deliberating on the draft budget, Councillors resolved to direct officers to provide a report to Council within 30 days identifying at least $500,000 in recurrent savings to be delivered during the 2018/19 financial year.
Under the directive, officers will conduct a detailed service review as part of the development of three-year Department Improvement Plans covering all areas of the Council’s operations. The Service Review Program, which sets out the timeframe for those Plans, will be presented at the Ordinary Council meeting in August.
“Councillors sent a clear message that we believe there are operational savings that must be made and this decision commits us to exploring those options and finding half a million dollars where most appropriate,” he said.
“These operational savings combined with our proposed rates, charges and kerbside collection fees will remove much of the financial risk associated with the recycling uncertainty we are facing.”
Cr McCracken said Councillors had worked hard with officers to minimise the impact rates have on property owners in the Shire, while still being financially responsible and investing in its communities.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to keep our proposed rate rise under the cap, while at the same time investing in over $1.1 million of priority projects and a healthy, affordable capital improvement program reflecting what our communities want,” he said.
“Our focus is very much on continuing to maintain services, facilities and important community infrastructure so that our Shire continues to be a wonderful place to call home, to conduct business and to visit.”
Cr McCracken said the 2018/19 draft budget proposed no additional employees, an overall wages saving and no new borrowings.
“The Council has made the decision to focus the 2018/19 capital works budget on renewal of assets as opposed to building new assets,” he said.
“We are maintaining our focus on roads, bridges and drainage and will invest more than $6 million in this area, in addition to important community projects including the Lake Colac Foreshore Master Plan, the Apollo Bay Harbour Precinct Development, the Forrest Mountain Bike Strategy and more.”
Cr McCracken said preparation of the draft budget had started earlier this year to facilitate a community consultation process.
He said the draft budget would now go on exhibition, with the community invited to make written submissions until June 1.
“The Council will consider all submissions received and, only later, meet to consider formally adopting the 2018/19 budget and setting the 2018/19 rates at the Council meeting to be held on June 27,” he said.