Opinion

Have a say on rate spend

by
April 26, 2018

Council budgets are not always the most interesting documents to read through.

And submitting a public comment with feedback is far from an entertaining pursuit for many.

But letting councillors know exactly how you feel about the way they have sketched out how the city’s rates are spent during the next 12 months is undoubtedly important.

The Greater Shepparton City Council 2018/19 draft budget includes an about $125 million spend in total on services, facilities, infrastructure and community activities and events that every person in the city utilises either directly or indirectly.

Fifty million of this is to be spent on capital projects, new infrastructure and renewal of existing assets.

Sure there’s the roads, rates and rubbish. The basic services local councils are most closely associated with.

But there’s also swimming pools, libraries, tourism and event attraction, and community facilities.

In recent years, councils have also been progressively dipping their toes into looking at and funding big visionary projects — both the co-funding and the advocacy for additional funds from other tiers of government.

Insofar as big projects go, two of them, which on paper couldn’t be more different, stick out in this budget: one big and visionary, the other more fundamental council business.

The first is the divisive, but bold, innovative and game-changing new Shepparton Art Museum, while the second is the unglamorous but necessary Cosgrove 3 landfill.

In council meetings past, councillors have spoken at great lengths on the importance for feedback to the budget to be offered.

It presents about the best time for ratepayers to have a direct say and influence on the financial planning, project delivery of council.

Without community guidance, it is difficult for councillors to know whether a glaring omission, or worthy inclusion has a groundswell of community support.

With tight rate capping ceilings and an ever-growing cost of doing business in a growing municipality taken into account, it remains up for debate how much funding can in reality be shifted around during this process.

But in recent years there have been several examples of extremely worthy community initiatives gaining strong support and a well orchestrated campaign, that have led to funding being re-allocated.

Perhaps others have seen this, and as such been more likely to have their say over the past few budgets, after a period when feedback offered was extremely rare.

It is equally important here for the council to make it as easy and accessible to make comment as possible.

We encourage those who feel strongly about a project or initiative to take the time to have their say.

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