Council has outlined its projects and goals to help guide the community recovery from COVID-19 in its annual Budget and Council Action Plan for 2020-21.
Councillors moved to release the draft 2020-21 Council Budget, Council Plan and Long-Term Financial Plan (2020-21 to 2029-30) for community consultation until midnight, Wednesday, 22 July.
Yarra Ranges Mayor, Richard Higgins, said the draft budget had been developed around supporting the community recover from the COVID-19 pandemic with a number of significant measures introduced to assist all community members, including assisting property owners with rates.
“We know that this year has brought unprecedented change and disruption across Australia with the COVID-19 situation, and that many people in our community are struggling financially.
“We’re taking a different approach to rates this year, in response to the significant impact of the pandemic. While we’re increasing rates at two per cent this year, in line with the State Government rate cap, we will be giving ratepayers a COVID-19 Rates Relief Assistance Credit for any increase in their general rates from last year.
“Put simply, this means that you won’t pay any more in general rates than you did last year, and some households will pay less.
“By increasing our rates and issuing a credit, we position our Council to be able to continue to invest in services, programs and building works to benefit the community in the long-term, while supporting community members doing it tough this year.
“We’ve have also expanded our rates financial hardship eligibility, so any ratepayer in Yarra Ranges can apply for assistance, through a payment plan or deferring their rates payments for up to a year.
“I’m also pleased to announce that we’ve set aside a dedicated COVID-19 Community Recovery Fund of over $4 million for the coming year, which will be used to help the community get back on track.”
In addition to focusing on providing relief to the community due to COVID-19, this budget will also continue to deliver on the over 120 services and initiatives that are contained in the 2017-2021 Council Plan.
The draft 2020-21 Budget includes spending on services of $3.9 million for libraries, $2.0 million for public pool maintenance, $7.7 million for aged and disability services and $3.9 million for immunisations and Maternal and Child Health services.
In the Capital Works Program, Council will spend $13.6 million on roads, $3.1 million on footpaths, $1.1 million on drainage, and $21.9 million on community facilities.
Cr Higgins said that COVID-19 recovery support would continue through Council’s ‘Be Kind Yarra Ranges’ initiative, as well as its annual Capital Works Program.
“Over the last few months, we’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the importance of community and what’s close to home,” he said.
“We’re one community in the Yarra Ranges and everything we do at Council – from roadside mowing to building new sporting pavilions – is delivered for the community.
“We’ll continue offering support and advice for community members and businesses through Be Kind Yarra Ranges, including re-opening kits for businesses with stickers and information.
“We know that businesses locally are having a tough time, so we’ve also changed our procurement process, so staff arranging quotes for services must get a quote from a local provider wherever possible.
“Meanwhile, Capital Works Program will enable us to continue providing high quality infrastructure for the community, and which will also create employment opportunities through construction of new projects and maintenance of our existing assets.
“In the last financial year, we constructed the first section of the Yarra Valley Trail, between Lilydale and Yering, opened the Kilsyth Centre of Excellence for football training and finished the Burrinja Cultural Centre Redevelopment, among many other projects, and I’m looking forward to seeing our achievements over the coming year.”
Capital Works Program highlights
Highlights in this year’s Capital Works Program include:
- Designing and activating the former Yering and Coldstream Station sites as multi-use open space for the community (linking with the Yarra Valley Trail).
- Installing solar-powered lights on the Lillydale Lake wall to finish the lighting project at the lake, improving visibility and safety for night time visitors.
- Extending the Olinda Creek Trail from Swansea Road in Montrose to York Road, Mount Evelyn (with State Government funding).
- Road widening on Smith Street, Healesville, to accommodate on-street parking on both sides, kerb and channel, drainage and a new footpath on the western side of the road (funded by Roads to Recovery).
- Installing accessible drinking fountains in Coldstream, Millgrove, Seville and Chirnside Park, to make water more accessible for visitors and people of all abilities.
- Continuing work on the Yarra Valley Trail’s first stage, connecting the finished trail section in Yering with Yarra Glen township (with State Government funding).
- Constructing the Community Sports Pavilion in Wandin North (with Federal and State Government funding and sporting club contributions).
- Upgrading the Belgrave Lake Park playspace and implementing master plan projects at the park (with additional funding from State Government Growing Suburbs Fund).
- Finishing the Green Spine Shared Path in Chirnside Park, connecting Kimberley Road to Black Springs Drive.
- Playspace renewals in Castle Hill Reserve in Mooroolbark, Gateway Reserve in Lilydale, the East Warburton Public Hall, Summerhill Reserve and Wanana Reserve in Moorooolbark.
- Covering four more netball courts at Pinks Reserve, with an extension of the sound wall (funded by a State Government grant).
- Renewing sports lighting at the Yarra Junction Recreation Reserve oval and install new court surfaces, lighting, fencing and drainage at the Yarra Junction tennis courts in the reserve.
- Construction of the community sports pavilion in Esther Park, Mooroolbark (with Federal and State Government funding and sporting club contributions).
- Design and construction for a number of roads throughout Yarra Ranges, through the Federal Government-funded Roads for the Community initiative.
- Continued construction of the new Lilydale Civic Centre, as part of Council’s Civic Centre Redevelopment.
Cr Higgins encouraged community members to read the draft Budget, Council Action Plan and Long-Term Financial Plan and share their thoughts.
“These documents set our priorities for the coming year and beyond – all of our priorities and major projects are there in black and white,” he said.
“This is also our last Council Action Plan for this election cycle, where we look at the goals we set for our four-year term and map the way forward for the next Council.
“I strongly encourage community members to have a read through the documents and share their thoughts with us on our website.
“Your submission can be as long or as short as you’d like – we want to know what you like and what you think might need work, so we can ensure our budget is the best it can be.”
Submissions on the budget documents close at midnight on Wednesday, 22 July, with a Delegated Committee of Council to hear submissions at a public meeting on 28 July 2020.
Any submitter can nominate themselves or another person to speak to their submission at the meeting if they choose. The budget will then be revised to capture any feedback, before returning to Council to be endorsed before the end of August.