Whittlesea City Council has adopted its 2020-21 Council Action Plan and Annual Budget, setting a clear path to building a strong community and thriving local economy in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Highlights from the $214.8 million budget include a $2 million COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund, $74.5 million to deliver new or refurbished facilities and infrastructure, almost $10 million to finish major projects underway along with delivering 100+ services that, combined, will keep our community active, connected and engaged.
Chair Administrator Lydia Wilson said the Budget was responsible financial management considering unknown financial impacts from COVID-19, that ensures Council can deliver much-needed community infrastructure and a wide range of services that support our diverse community.
“Continual investment in infrastructure in any climate is absolutely vital for a growing community like the City of Whittlesea,” Ms Wilson said.
“It is also essential for the creation of jobs, and where possible, that these jobs are available for our local residents.”
The much-anticipated Mill Park Leisure is expected to open in early 2021. Significant road projects will also be completed including a new signalised intersection at Findon Road/Ferres Boulevard. The extension of Findon Road through to Plenty Road will provide residents with a vital east-west road link across the municipality by connecting to the Hume Freeway.
The Community Recovery Fund will be co-designed with residents, local businesses, not-for-profit organisations, groups and clubs so this investment is targeted to where it is needed.
“It is important that we work together to ensure our community is resilient and our local businesses remain strong and continue to operate,” Ms Wilson said.
“Our local businesses have taken a huge economic hit these past few months, and I am pleased that two streetscape projects – Thomastown and Lalor – are included in this year’s Budget and look forward to this work boosting their vitality and appeal.”
The introduction of food and garden waste recycling this financial year will allow participating residents to help reduce the 40,000 tonnes of food waste that the City of Whittlesea tips into landfill each year.
Council has absorbed significant costs to reduce the burden of rising household and business expenses. This includes absorbing the 30 per cent increase in waste costs caused by disruptions in the global recycling market, enabling the household waste service charge to maintain a two per cent increase.
Rates will increase by an average of two per cent in line with the rate cap set by the Victorian Government under the Fair Go Rates System.
Rates help Council deliver essential services, programs and infrastructure set out in the Council Plan and Annual Budget.
“It is important that our planned projects continue and our quality in service does not stagnate if we are to succeed in keeping up with increasing needs from our growing community,” Ms Wilson said.
Residents experiencing financial hardship caused by COVID-19 can apply for an interest free payment plan for rates, fees and charges until 30 June 2021. Serious hardship cases may be eligible for a deferral.
The community was invited to submit their feedback on the Draft Council Action Plan and Draft Annual Budget. Consultation was extended from four to six weeks to accommodate COVID-19 social restrictions that prohibited face-to-face engagement.
Council received 14 submissions, which were considered at a Special Meeting held in June with five items included in the Annual Budget as a result. No submissions were received on the Draft Council Plan.
NOTE: The Victorian Government provided councils with an option to extend the date to adopt the 2020-21 Budget from 30 June to 31 August 2020. The City of Whittlesea proceeded to adopt its 2020-21 Budget on the standard, 30 June, timeline. Please note that some variation may be required as more about financial impacts of COVID-19 are realised.
- $11.99 million to provide services, programs and activities to enable older people to live independently in their homes
- $9.18 million for provision of family and children services
- $8.8 million for public health services and programs delivered; to protect and enhance community health, safety and wellbeing
- $5.22 million contribution to provide the regional library service
- $5.06 million for traffic management services including school crossings and community education programs
- $2.13 million for supporting local youth services.
Improving roads, footpaths and bike paths
- $13.05 million for Boundary Road works
- $3 million for the completion of the Findon Road extension through to Plenty Road.
Upgrading or building new community facilities
- $4.30 million for construction of a community centre – west of Epping Road
- $3.29 million towards Mernda Sports Hub
- $2.53 million upgrade for McLeans Road Kindergarten
- $2 million for construction of a kindergarten at Thomastown Primary School
- $1.80 million for streetscape improvements at the Lalor Shopping Centre
- $1.24 million for streetscape improvements at the High Street, Thomastown shops.
Parks and playgrounds
- $2.03 million for final stage of an all abilities play space at Mill Park Recreation Reserve
- $1.41 million for ongoing programs to upgrade playgrounds and general landscaping
- $1.10 million for the implementation of the Whittlesea Public Gardens master plan.