MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has saved almost $700,000 by putting its insurance out to tender rather than staying with MAV Insurance, a company associated with the Municipal Association of Victoria, the peak body of local government.
The windfall was revealed last Wednesday when councillors approved the budget for 2014-15 with its expected rate increase of 5.9 per cent and no change to the municipal charge of $180, which ratepayer groups claim is a regressive fee as all ratepayers have to pay it whether they own property in Portsea and Flinders or Rosebud and Hastings.
The shire had allocated almost $1.5 million for insurance in its draft budget but will now pay $767,000, a saving of $690,230. The insurance change was driven by new CEO Carl Cowie and enabled the council to add 10 items to its budget totalling $600,000 that came as a direct result of lobbying by residents and groups during the budget draft period since late April.
One addition bound to generate controversy is $50,000 to Peninsula Aero Club for construction of an access road from Stuart Rd, Tyabb, “to improve the capacity of the airport to manage and support emergencies more efficiently and safely, subject to permits if required”. The club’s Tyabb airfield has been under pressure from some ratepayers for many years due to safety and operational concerns.
Other items added to the budget last week are $350,000 for construction of the unmade car park at Currawong Community Centre in Mornington, $15,000 for a music bursary program, $32,500 for the shire’s Arts and Culture Strategy, $15,500 toward an “all abilities” boardwalk at Point Leo Beach, $20,000 for continued sponsorship of Mornington Peninsula Tennis International tournament, $24,000 for CCTV cameras in Rye business precinct, $30,000 for Annie Sage precinct in Somerville, $50,000 to investigate cliff erosion stability measures at Tassells Beach, Safety Beach, and $15,000 toward a “fruitgrowing machinery display shed” at Fruitgrowers Reserve, Somerville.
Last Friday, the mayor Cr Bev Colomb issued a statement saying “our rates continue to be among the lowest in the state”.
She said the budget was “based on extensive community consultation, and while not all projects can be included, I am confident the budget supports our community’s needs and aspirations and delivers on council’s priorities over the next 12 months and beyond”.
Cr Colomb said the budget would protect and improve the “liveability of our towns and villages”; enhance “the coastal experience”; provide “new and refurbished community infrastructure, buildings and open space”; reduce “the shire’s and community’s carbon footprint” and protect the natural environment; and support a “healthy, safe and connected community”.
She said the council was focused on “eliminating debt that does not fund activities with long-term benefit to ensure that it is in a position to leverage income to meet future challenges including long-term community needs and aspirations, as well as present and future funding changes from federal and state governments, the introduction of rate capping and future ‘calls’ on the Local Authorities Superannuation Fund.
The super fund has cost the shire more than $17 million in the past 12 years including $10.8 million borrowed in 2013. The statewide shortfall of about $400 million was partly due to the global financial crisis and the fund under-estimating the length of time beneficiaries were living after retirement. The super plan for local government employees was a compulsory scheme from 1982. It was closed to new members in 1993.
Cr Colomb said the budget contained $200,000 to start “the journey towards carbon neutrality, and will continue with a range of energy-saving initiatives across shire and community buildings”.
There would be $4 million under the Safer Local Roads program and more than $3 million for new and refurbished footpaths. About $2 million would be spent on “protection of bushland and fire prevention works”.
The budget is due to go on the shire’s website this week.