Shire aims for 5.9% rate rise


SHIRE rates will rise 5.9 per cent for 2015-16, councillors have decided in the budget document now available at shire offices, libraries and online.

Further budget submissions can be made on 11 June at a special meeting in the Rosebud shire office.

The rate rise is the same as last year’s and, for the third successive year the municipal charge has been held at $180 a property.

CEO Carl Cowie told a recent council meeting the charge would be reviewed for the next budget. Some took this to mean it might be reduced or even abolished entirely.

The mayor Cr Bev Colomb said the budget focussed on speeding up debt repayment and preparing for rate capping by the state government, which will curb shire rates income from next year.

Other priorities were: possible future loans to cover the defined benefits superannuation scheme; limits on funding from the federal and state government; and “long term community needs and aspirations”.

“My councillor colleagues and I are very aware of financial pressures that many in our community face and our rates will continue to be among the lowest in the state,” Cr Colomb said, urging people to read the budget “to understand council’s priorities over the next 12 months”.

Mr Cowie, who started work at the shire on 1 December last year, pointed to “significant changes ahead where a prudent financial approach is imperative to ensure that the shire is on a solid footing for the decades to come”.

He was hired by councillors to reorganise the shire finances and structure, a process he began with a preliminary trimming of staff – the first step to “unlock maximum value for the community” – and a declared interest in contracting out unspecified shire work.

“All aspects of shire operations will continue to be reviewed, reducing costs wherever possible, whether this is through innovation, truly competitive tendering, process improvements, supply-chain enhancements, or enhanced technology solutions,” Mr Cowie said.

“Sound financial control is an essential element of any business … we are a large business, with a high level of responsibility to the community.”

Rates income of $146.1 million is up $8.4 million from last year, about $800,000 of this coming from new properties. A steady but modest rise in rates revenue is predicted through to 2018-19.

Additional income comes from the optional green waste service ($2.95 million), bringing the “total rates and charges revenue” to just over $149 million. The $180 municipal charge raises $17.66 million of this.

Similarly, the cost of services is budgeted to rise moderately from now until 2018-19.

In what looks like a shift in reporting method, carried-forward capital works of $16.26 million are not included in the 2015-16 figure of $26.06 million. The budget states these projects have not been included “due to the timing of adoption”. Possibly the shire is in the process of adopting the “full accrual accounting” system.

The document says capital spending has been prioritised “based on a rigorous process of consultation that has enabled council to assess needs and develop sound business cases for each [capital works] project”.

A bar chart shows spending is highest for parks and reserves, drainage and waste and recycling. “Land use and conservation planning” follows.

The vital item roads and road maintenance is listed under Capital Works as having a budget of $10.1 million for a broad range of road-related infrastructure, including lighting, traffic signals and footpaths.

Significant projects listed for the next financial year include play space renewals, a revamp of the Emil Madsen, Mt Eliza, including money for soccer, totalling $670 million; Mt Martha skate park; Balnarring recreation reserve; Hastings activity centre ($400 million); and allocations for Rosebud’s jetty and activity centre works totalling $850 million.

New assets including footpaths, a property purchase and skate/BMX/soccer projects are allocated more than $7 million, while asset upgrades will get $3.3 million. Renewal and maintenance, including Safer Local Roads funding, pavilions, drainage, footpaths and public toilets are allocated $15.7 million.

Asset sales were forecast to fetch $11.63 million in the current financial year. The draft budget indicates they raised not a cent. The money was to be used to help finance the $8 million-plus purchase of Wannaeue Place, proposed as an alternative location for the mothballed Southern Peninsula Aquatic Centre.

Some $26 million is expected to flow to the shire next financial year from state and federal governments ($1.12 million) to fund road works. A further $2.9 million in “contributions” will come mainly from developers via planning requirements and $22 million generated by the shire’s operating activities. No borrowings are contemplated.

The budget is at Click on “Shire 2015/16 proposed budget on exhibition”

First published in the Mornington News – 5 May 2015


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