Baw Baw’s planned rate increase is only marginally lower than last year’s projection of 3.9 per cent, despite widespread cost cutting measures.
First published in the 15 May 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen. Get your copy for free from retailers across Baw Baw today.
COUNCILLORS have endorsed Baw Baw’s 2015/ 16 rating strategy, which will likely see a 3.6 per cent rate rise.
The planned rate increase is only marginally lower than last year’s projection of 3.9 per cent, despite widespread cost cutting measures.
Councillors have released the 2015/16 rating strategy and budget for community consultation and feedback.
The rating strategy features some other key changes this year, not least the introduction of two new rating categories.
Properties deemed to be in the Urban Living category will have a rates discount of 10 per cent on the general rate, while those in the Residential Development category will have a 30 per cent surcharge.
A report by council officers said the introduction of the new zones was appropriate with the approval of Baw Baw’s settlement strategy, the precinct structure plans, and growth in Warragul and Drouin.
Property owners with land covered by the Vacant Land differential will have less incentive to take action with a cut in the surcharge from 80 per cent to 60 per cent.”
Commercial and industrial properties will still be covered by a 30 per cent surcharge and farms will continue to receive a 10 per cent discount.
The seven farms covered by the Urban Farm differential will be removed and folded into the general farm differential. Both had a discount of 10 per cent.
Eligible pensioners will continue to receive a $50 rebate from Baw Baw in addition to the state government’s rebate.
The waste service charge for rubbish collection will remain in place.
The February lump sum payment option abandoned last budget will not be reinstated, with the quarterly payment requirement remaining in place.
The rating strategy was passed unanimously by all nine councillors, though Warragul ward councillor Mikaela Power spoke against the motion with concerns about the reduced vacant land surcharge.
“The extra charge on vacant land is an incentive to do something with that land,” Cr Power said.
“My concern is around some large areas of vacant land that have been sitting there for ages.
“We need something to happen there and I am reluctant to change anything that might cause progress.”
Drouin ward’s Terry Williamson said the lower than expected rise showed councillors were “mindful of ratepayers’ concerns.”
Joe Gauci, Warragul Ward, said the council had resisted doing what he claimed other councils had done in not hiking rates higher in light of the state government’s planned rate capping.
“A lot of other councils have actually gone the other way and… tried increasing their rates over that rate,” Cr Gauci said.
“We’ve kept to our rating strategy.
“There’s been no money grab at all in our rating strategy.”
Warragul’s Gerard Murphy was a bit less specific:
“We are about delivering, and we’re delivering. This group delivers.”
Councillors also gave the nod to Baw Baw’s proposed 2015/16 budget at Wednesday’s meeting.
Moving the motion to endorse the proposal, which is now open to public submissions, Mount Worth ward councillor Murray Cook said the council had made significant savings, including “$1.5 million in salary savings,” despite pressure from other levels of government
“This budget is the result of this council listening to the community,” Cr Cook said.
“One of the tasks of rural governemnts is to fight the cost shift of state and federal government. We’ve had to top up the grants even more.”
Drouin ward councillor Tricia Jones emphasised that “the council plan now goes way beyond rates and roads” while Cr Gauci talked the councillors up.
“As a group we’ve been through every single line item of this budget, every director has been to us to explain every cent,” he said.
“Don’t think this has been a process that we’ve gone through overnight. It’s a very very long process.”
Cr Williamson highlighted capital works in Drouin, especially the “refurbishment” of the council offices in the town.
“We’ll have our own [Sydney] Opera House there,” Cr Williamson said.
“There will be lots of workers busying themselves about their computers…. and whatever our staff do.”
$35.2 million from the budget, including $5 million carried forward, has been committed to council infrastructure renewal.
The 2015/16 budget will also pay for:
- stage two of the Warragul Leisure Centre reconstruction,
- design work for the redevelopment of the West Gippsland Arts Centre,
- construction of a new kinder at Drouin Primary School
- construction of a new animal pound at Lardner.
- upgrades and expansions of three of Baw Baw’s waste transfer stations,
- improvements at eight bad road safety locations,
- consultation on and design of streetscapes in Warragul,
- Longwarry drainage works,
- a new footpath program to provide approximately 700m of new footpath at sites across the region,
- Dowton Park Yarragon Oval 1 upgrades, and
- road repairs.
A report by council officers said the council was continuing to seek savings through moves to online service delivery.
Total operating expenditure in the budget comes in at $64.4 million.
The proposed budget is open for public comment until 17:00 on Friday 12 June.
Written submissions should be sent to: Chief Executive Officer, Baw Baw Shire Council, PO Box 304, Warragul 3820.
Emails can be sent to email@example.com.
Written submissions can be spoken to at a special council meeting, which will be held at 18:00 on Monday 15 June.
Those interested in speaking should say so in their submission.
What do you think of the proposed budget? Let WBBC know on Facebook (search “Warragul Citizen”) or at warragulcitizen.com.
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