Community engagement informs City of Ballarat’s 2021-22 draft budget

City of Ballarat Mayor Cr Daniel Moloney and City of Ballarat CEO Evan King say The Ballarat Our Future community engagement has significantly informed the City of Ballarat’s 2021-22 draft budget.

Delivering key infrastructure and services, while managing sustainable growth and focusing on the environment are key themes addressed in this budget.

Cr Moloney says while last year’s budget was designed to respond to COVID-19’s devastating impacts, this budget has a focus on renewed growth, renewal, and project and service delivery.

“After a zero per cent rate increase last year, this year’s rates will increase by 1.5 per cent in line with the State Government’s rate cap,” Cr Moloney says.

“Commercial and industrial rates, however, will be gradually reduced over the next four years to bring them in line with other regional centres.”

Mr King says this draft budget is financially sustainable, shows Council’s solid financial position and that investment is being targeted in areas of greatest need.

“We will focus on integrated transport infrastructure and have a greater focus on sustainability and the quality of all the services needed to support our growing community, especially during post-COVID recovery,” Mr King says.

“Significant infrastructure investment is designed to stimulate the municipality’s economy by creating jobs and encouraging spending. Our $130.9 million capital program is significantly more than last year. This is partly because we have changed the way we report carry overs for greater transparency, including $38 million of undelivered capital works projects.

“We are investing $90 million to maintain Council’s existing assets such as roads, bridges and buildings.

“Council is responsible for almost $2 billion in built assets and regular investment is critical to ensure they are appropriately maintained.

The City of Ballarat’s strong partnerships with the State and Federal Governments has led to a large capital grants increase this year, with $33.5 million of the $130 million capital budget coming from those levels of government.

Mr King says the 14.75 per cent increased waste levy charge, which will equate to $52.90 per year or $1 a week, is partly driven by rising waste collection costs and a rising EPA levy, which has risen to $105.90 a tonne and will cost the City of Ballarat ratepayers $3.4 million in the next year, which is $1.3 million more than last year.

“Council plans to transition its traditional waste services to a more circular economy,” Mr King says.

“Part of this waste charge will be set aside in a new Waste Reserve to fund future circular economy infrastructure. This reserve will help Ballarat deliver Recycling Victoria policy initiatives and will support Ballarat’s transition to a circular economy, in line with community calls for an increased emphasis on sustainability.”

Cr Moloney says the budget also ensures more equitable and targeted investment in some of our long established suburbs, such as Sebastopol, Delacombe, Wendouree and Miners Rest, which have ageing or inadequate infrastructure, and which will hopefully lead to greater job and opportunity access in these areas.

“There is also investment in everything from galleries to roads (including more rural roads funding) to trails, footpaths to cycling paths and tree planting,” Cr Moloney says.

“We will also begin next year’s budget consultation earlier, starting in November and December this year to engage the community over a long time period. By engaging earlier, community submissions can have a greater impact on the development of the budget in its early stages, as last-minute feedback is harder to incorporate. It’s well known that to make a meaningful state or federal government budget submission you need to make it at least six months in advance of the budget being delivered, so we will be incorporating this philosophy into our Council budget planning as well.”

The Draft Budget, along with the Draft Revenue and Rating Plan that was also considered at Wednesday night’s Council Meeting, will now be put out for submissions until Thursday 3 June. Submissions can be made via mysay https://mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au/budget-2021-2022

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