Opinion

Final tick for budget, plan

by
June 27, 2017

Greater Shepparton City Council has endorsed final documents for the 2017-18 budget, ratings strategy and new council plan.

Three roadmap documents — the 2017-18 budget, ratings strategy and new council plan — have been signed off on.

Greater Shepparton City Council last week endorsed the final versions of the documents amid lingering concerns about the fairness of the municipal charge and a lack of feedback on the rating strategy.

Councillors gave officers a pat on the back for managing to work the budget within the two per cent state imposed rate cap, described by Cr Bruce Giovanetti as ‘‘no mean feat’’.

While not exactly what he called the ‘‘sexy’’ part of the budget, Cr Dennis Patterson acknowledged the importance of asset renewals and argued despite borrowings being less than ideal, $6million borrowed for Cosgrove Landfill 3 was to help fund an ‘‘intergenerational project’’.

‘‘For a new council to come together in a short time and consider such a large budget, I say well done,’’ chief executive Peter Harriott said.

Cr Fern Summer found some familiar concerns in the budget and rating strategy.

She described the municipal charge as ‘‘misleading’’ and expressed caution at pushing ahead with a new Shepparton Art Museum without having the full funding needed.

‘‘It’s putting the cart before the horse and it’s risky.’’

In watching the tighter rate cap imposed in the past two years, Cr Chris Hazelman observed it did not ‘‘take much time to work out the direction this is heading in’’.

He also remarked at no submissions being received to the rating strategy, hoping instead ‘‘to see a lot of robust debate about how the rating strategy is applied’’ in future.

The council plan spells out what the council wishes to achieve during the next four years with associated targets attached.

Cr Seema Abdullah said attendance at some of the consultation sessions was less than desirable and suggested involving the community earlier in future.

Councillors commended the paper moving away from motherhood statements and a plan strong on aspirations, light on the detail, towards one with clearly defined goals to be reviewed annually.

The municipal charge, described as a fixed charge which all rateable properties incur regardless of value or property type, ‘‘to recover some of council’s governance and administration costs,’’ will be $262 for the 2017-18 financial year, a 2.3 per cent increase from last year.

The council expects to receive $7.8million as a result of the charge during the financial year.

Speaking about the municipal charge in the rating strategy, Cr Summer said, ‘‘I do think it’s an unfair expense,’’ describing the charge as a ‘‘discount for the top end of town that everyone pays for’’.

Cr Summer found it astonishing not one submission was received and suggested the need for better language.

In speaking to the rating strategy, councillors also questioned the removal of a full rates payment option.

A report to the meeting said the municipal charge distributed the rates in a way council considered to be fairer and more equitable and ensured ‘‘that owners of low valued properties contribute a reasonable amount to meeting the unavoidable costs of local government’’.

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