Bass Coast,
08
February
2016
|
10:42
Australia/Melbourne

Community has their say on rate capping

Bass+Coast+Shire+Council%26rsquo%3Bs+General+Manager+Governance+and+Organisation+Development%2C+Mark+Brady%2C+kicked+off+the+community+conversation+about+rate+capping+at+workshops+held+in+Wonthaggi+and+Cowes+recently.

Around 110 people attended four rate capping workshops held in Wonthaggi and Cowes recently to gain a better understanding of how rate capping may affect services and projects in Bass Coast. Participants also provided feedback on where they believe efficiencies and savings can be found.

Bass Coast Shire Council’s General Manager Governance and Organisation Development and workshop faciltator, Mark Brady, said the workshops had been constructive and useful in highlighting some of the challenges that rate capping presents.

“To summarise at a high level, the three main threads of discussion from the workshops were that Council should apply the rate cap, achieve savings by finding operational efficiencies and reductions, and pursue other revenue streams,” Mr Brady said.

“Some attendees also suggested going with a rate variation, but overall a rate cap was the preferred choice. Attendees also discussed reducing services and staff salaries in order to spend savings on capital works projects, as well as working to reduce cost shifting from other levels of government and increase grants funding.

Mr Brady said other suggestions included Council reducing the use of consultants and finding revenue opportunities through rationalising Council assets. Some suggestions said that Council should find alternate revenue streams, such as a rate surcharge for non-owner occupied residences and funding from public and private corporations within the municipality who either don’t pay rates or contribute less than they could.

Some participants said they were willing to support a variation to the rate cap if it meant delivering current services, renewing infrastructure and investing in new infrastructure.

Three drop-in sessions will now be held in Inverloch, Grantville and Newhaven over the next few weeks for residents who were unable to attend the workshops to have an input, or those who did attend to provide further comment.

Drop-in sessions will be held at:

· Inverloch Community Hub on Monday, 8 February from 4.00pm to 6.00pm

· Grantville Transaction Centre on Wednesday, 17 February from 2.00pm to 6.00pm

· Phillip Island Visitor Information Centre in Newhaven on Tuesday, 23 February from 3.00pm to 5.00pm.

“We encourage anyone who has feedback and ideas to attend one of the drop-in sessions where we will have staff available to provide information and receive all ideas and feedback,” Mr Brady said.

“We understand it isn’t convenient for everyone to attend one of our sessions, so there will be an opportunity to complete a survey online and in print from Monday, 8 February, as well as make a submission via email or letter.

“People can still call Council to discuss the rate cap and meet with senior staff if that is more convenient and we have sought opportunities to talk with various business and community groups over the next month so that our consultation processes keep giving people the chance to provide feedback. If possible we would like feedback provided by the end of February.

The State Government has introduced a rate cap of 2.5 per cent across all municipalities in Victoria. This means that the average rate rise must be a maximum of 2.5 per cent unless Council applies for a variation. It has not yet applied for a variation but has retained the option to do so. This decision will be made by Council at it’s meeting on 16 March.

Council has clarified its position at the workshops and via the media that as part of the consultation process, it has provided the community with options should Council stay within the rate cap. Council will need to prepare a 2.5 per cent rate cap budget as one of the options to consider for the draft budget in April. This will ultimately include feedback and advice from the community, Councillors and Council staff.

“Under a rate cap, Council may need to decide on whether funding for any major or minor capital works projects will proceed. Other major projects may be retained, delayed or cancelled. We’d really like to hear from the community and find out what services and projects are important to them to help Council make a decision.”

For more information on the projects that will be affected by rate capping, seeing what feedback and questions people have submitted and to complete the online survey, please visit www.basscoast.vic.gov.au/ratecap. Surveys can be collected in hard copy from Council Customer Service Centres in Wonthaggi, Cowes, Inverloch and Grantville from Tuesday, 9 February.

If you would like to be kept up-to-date on any new information regarding the rate cap, please email communications@basscoast.vic.gov.au.