Whitehorse City Council adopted a $214 million Proposed Budget for 2020/21 this week. This budget makes provision for our usual Council services and works, which must continue throughout the pandemic.
Mayor Cr Ellis “It is clear that the 2020-21 financial year will not be an ordinary year. The social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our community will be very significant. Council has taken a measured approach to this budget.
We have deferred final commitment to some otherwise worthy new initiatives. As the full extent of the pandemic becomes clearer, it will be necessary to update the budget outlook and to release a new forecast or a revised budget.”
Council will be transparent about this process and ensure it is communicated clearly to the Whitehorse community.
For now, Council has committed to a support and relief package valued up to $2 million. Cr Ellis said, “Our immediate response acknowledges that many residents and local businesses have experienced a significant financial impact as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many people are in circumstances they could not have anticipated.
We don’t want to add to their burden, so we have put together a package that will directly assist community groups, businesses and residents.”
The package includes negotiated extensions to some payments and reasonable arrangements for Council tenants directly affected by the shutdown of Council facilities. Council has extended free parking arrangements already announced for the Box Hill precinct on Saturdays, acknowledging that some local traders have been severely impacted since January.
There will be discounts and extensions on permits and business registrations where those businesses have been unable to trade.
Cr Ellis explained, “As well as Council’s financial commitment, our officers are focussing on improved terms and quicker payment of vendor invoices. This is important to businesses under cash flow stress, and can even ensure business survival in difficult conditions.”
Council has also begun work on a recovery and stimulus package worth $2.5 million. Both the support package and this additional recovery package will be included in the Proposed Budget 2020/21 that Council considers for final approval in June.
Cr Ellis said, “When restrictions are lifted, we want our sporting clubs, community organisations and local businesses to be ready to resume their usual vibrant community and economic activities.
We’re stronger when we work together, for the benefit of the whole community.”
Proposed budget overview
Rates – The average rate will increase by 2.0% for the 2020/2021 year. Total rate income for 2020/2021 is budgeted to be $123.84 million and includes $0.95 million supplementary rate income expected to be generated from new property developments.
Community services – The budget commits $16 million for the continued delivery of a wide range of services to the community including sustainability, waste and recycling, home and community services, recreation and leisure, health and family services, arts and cultural services, libraries and maintenance of sports fields, parks and gardens, footpaths, drains and roads.
Capital Works Program – The budget includes capital expenditure of $61.53 million, including $44.20 million to renew and upgrade the city’s existing assets and $17.33 million for new and expanded assets. Funding includes $14.10 million for roads, paths, bridges, car parks and drainage, $6.89 million for parks, open space and streetscapes and $3.69 million for recreational, leisure and community facilities.
Operational Initiatives – Council has committed a modest net $0.15 million in funding for new operational budget initiatives in 2020/21. With the growing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, Council has only included new initiatives that are required to address new legislative or audit related requirements. These include implementation of the new swimming pool and safety barrier legislative requirements, addition of a new Civil Works Inspector to help manage the increased volume and complexity of inspections and assessments of major building developments and additional temporary resource to implement new financial requirements under the recent Local Government Act 2020.
Anyone who would like to make a submission on the proposed budget is encouraged to do so by Wednesday 20 May 2020.