The Baw Baw Shire Council has chosen to delay voting on its draft budget until next month following a rowdy submission hearing last night.
The decision was made after last night’s meeting, where Baw Baw Shire Mayor Diane Blackwood said the budget could still change before the vote.
“Nothing is set in concrete until next week when council votes,” Cr Blackwood said.
The vote will now take place on July 11.
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The council says the deferral is to allow councillors “time to consider all public submissions.”
Over 40 members of the public were present at the meeting and 13 submissions from the public and lobby groups were heard.
The audience was repeatedly asked to remain quiet during the meeting, and standing orders were suspended when one speaker refused to stop speaking after their time expired.
The speaker was asked to resume their seat in the gallery or leave, but refused and turned to speak to the audience directly. They resumed their seat shortly after council officers said they would call the police.
Most submissions said the proposed rate rise of 11 per cent is too high.
The council says the rate will be closer to eight per cent for households and three per cent for commercial properties.
Ratepayers Association spokesperson Ruth Jones said the rates increase is too large for the community to handle.
“We strongly suggest reducing expenditure [except when it reduces] quality of life,” Ms Jones said.
“It appears the perceived community capacity to pay was [how the] new rate was determined. We believe this is not acceptable or appropriate.”
Warragul Business Group spokesperson Peter Nicholson said the group rejects the rise.
“This budget cannot be passed in its current form,” Mr Nicholson said.
“From the outside, the council has been seduced by the idea of being all things for all people.”
“It would seem that the council has lost its way, lost its place in the community and lost control of the budget.”
Drouin Business Group President Trudy Tambassis said an increase in rates would reduce charitable donations in the shire.
“We have a lot of people who are asking for donations from businesses, and [in the current financial environment] we are starting to have to say no,” Ms Tambassis said.
Victorian Famers Federation Thorpdale Branch spokesperson David Hotchkin said the group would accept a rise of up to five per cent, but would like to see more services provided.
“We also have an issue with the amount of services we receive,” Mr Hotchkin said.
“We’re not getting our roads repaired – there are roads up there that haven’t see a grader in years… when it rains you can’t even drive a car down it.”
The sentiment was echoed by Yarragon farmer David Lyons.
“This is a rate rise I’d be happy to pay if I could see some more [coming back],” Mr Lyons said.
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