Bass Coast,

Council adopts 2016/17 Budget

A 2016/17 Budget featuring a 2.5 per cent rate cap and no increase in operating costs was adopted by Bass Coast Shire Council last night.

The Budget was developed with clear direction from community feedback received from the ‘Impact of Rate Capping’ engagement process; most notably asking Council to achieve the State Government set rate cap by making operational efficiencies and savings.

Bass Coast Mayor, Cr Jordan Crugnale, said Council believed the Budget met the community’s expectations.

“We were elected with a platform and if we use the analogy of Council as a 120 room building, we have spent the first few years getting the foundations redone, insulation in, rewiring and so forth, and now we are well into going through each room, dissecting and finding what stays and what goes,” Cr Crugnale.

“No one sees that, but now we have a strong foundation and a plan, we can borrow, leverage and are already seeing external funding, investment and community priorities coming to fruition shire-wide and this budget is an extension of that.

“The 2016/17 Budget focusses on containing operational spending and ensuring there is sufficient investment in capital works and asset renewal, and we have achieved this by redirecting a larger percentage of rates from operating costs to both capital works and renewal of infrastructure.

“Twenty-one per cent of rates income will fund capital works (including debt servicing), whilst Council will fund 100 per cent of its renewal target for the second year running.

“The Budget also contains overall operating and employee costs, with no increase from the 2015-16 Budget assisted by efficiency savings of $1.9 million.”

Council received and considered nine submissions to the draft Budget, one of which included 341 web automated budget submissions generated from the Inverloch 3996 website.

Three submitters presented to Council at a hearing held on Wednesday, 8 June. Issues including the Surf Parade Shared Path in Inverloch and support and funding from Council for the reconstruction of the Cape Paterson Life Saving Club will be considered in 2016/17.

The $76 million draft Budget proposes a $16 million Capital Works Program, including major, minor and renewal projects such as:

  • Bass Valley Children’s Centre
  • Cowes Revitalisation Projects
  • Wonthaggi Netball Courts Upgrade
  • Priority Bike Network – Potters Hill to Back Beach Road San Remo
  • Thompson Reserve Lighting
  • Black Spot Program – Agar Rd from Soldiers Rd to Corinella Rd
  • Black Spot Program – Woodleigh – St Helier Rd

In response to community feedback, Council will also develop a Revenue Strategy in the 2016-17 year to consider possible alternative revenue generating opportunities for following years.

Comparing rates and taxes

Each year the Council Budget reflects the diverse number of services the community receives, from Council with over 100 services provided.

Cr Crugnale said although there will always be different points of view and priorities, overall Council believes it is good value for money – especially when you consider that, according to the Municipal Association of Victoria, on average across Australia local government only collects around 3.4 per cent of the total taxes people pay.

“Not many people may stop to think about this. At times, it may seem that as the closest form of government to the community, this 3.4 per cent is scrutinised more by the public than the other 96.6 per cent of taxes we pay the State and Federal Governments, which is mainly through income tax and GST,” Cr Crugnale said.

“Perhaps, it is because the nature of receiving a letter in the mail means that a rates notice remains more visible than the other taxes we pay and is treated more like a utility bill rather than a tax. Either way, the community is becoming more invested and interested in the Budget development and with rate capping providing a limitation to raising the funds required to deliver the services, the community’s input and feedback will be sought more often than not into the future.”

Council’s CEO, Paul Buckley PSM, said the adoption of the Council Budget is the culmination of a lot of work, which includes the outcomes of ongoing service reviews run through the year and the recent community engagement process on the Impact of Rate Capping.

“This Budget was developed through a detailed community engagement process that will now become a benchmark for Council to meet each year,” Mr Buckley said.

“The use of online, social media, printed communication and face-to-face meetings and forums has been well received by the participants.

“Although there is still room for improvement in the community engagement process, we anticipate that the development of the 2017/18 Budget will need to commence earlier again, following the election of the new Council in October.”