Council brings budget back into black

Supporting a raft of capital works projects and progressively increasing spending on existing assets are key features of the Council’s 2022-23 Budget.

Council tonight adopted the budget, which prioritises strongly investing in community-focused initiatives and delivering a sustainable financial position.

The proposed operating surplus of $107,000 has been maintained, bringing the budget back in the black after two years of annual deficits to support COVID-19 recovery packages.

Mayor Peter Murrihy said the surplus had been achieved while meeting four-year budget commitments, placing a strong focus on renewing existing assets, and continuing to deliver more than 130 services.

Council has worked hard to return the budget to a break-even position, especially as we deal with increased costs of service delivery and high demand in our growth areas. We have done this while rolling out the largest capital program in the City’s history over a two-year period, which will drive private investment and renew our huge asset base.

Changes were made to the final budget, following the consideration of 96 public submissions.

Of those submissions, nearly two-thirds (63) were in support of drainage improvements in Kyema Drive, Lara.

In response, Council brought forward committed funding of $1.3 million by two years, to enable design of the drainage project to begin in 2022-23.

Finance portfolio chair, Councillor Anthony Aitken, thanked those residents who lodged submissions and said Council was keen to explore any opportunities to progress the proposed initiatives.

The feedback clearly showed strong demand for the drainage upgrade in Kyema Drive, so we’re pleased to be able to get that underway as soon as possible. There was merit in other projects that were presented to us, so we’ll be looking at ways we can include them in upcoming works programs. This includes examining external funding options, referring those eligible to the Community Grants process and considering others in our longer-term plans and future budgets.

A massive $206.5 million capital works program in 2022-23 will encourage further private investment, and deliver the infrastructure that the region’s growing population needs.

There is significant funding for environmental sustainability-led initiatives, such as:

• Switching to electricity to power the Northern Aquatic and Community Hub with renewable energy – $4 million

• Completing the conversion of our street lighting to LED, with associated smart control technology – $3.55 million

• Renewing open space areas – $800,000

• Continuing the development of the 550-hectare Sparrovale Wetlands site – $523,487

• Installing another sustainable bridge at Seagull Paddock – $500,000

• Environment and coastal reserves capital works ($554,680) and maintenance ($390,000); and

Community grants including Environmental Sustainability ($150,000) and Climate Change Partnership ($100,000).

Mayor Murrihy said Council had several major long-term initiatives in place that were helping to drive down the organisation’s carbon footprint.

These include sourcing renewable energy for our electricity needs, improving the efficiency of our buildings, using methane from landfill, and transitioning to a low-emission light fleet. Council will continue to invest in sustainable initiatives that improve our environment and reduce our service costs. This is all part of our push to a sustainable zero-carbon future, and leading our community to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Council has kept the overall rate increase to 1.75 per cent, in line with the State Government’s cap.

As part of its Rating and Revenue Plan, over the next four years Council aims to simplify the rating system and have a more equitable distribution of rates among the different classes.

This includes aligning the Commercial, Industrial and Petroleum rates, and bridging the gap in the rates payable to residential properties.

Cr Aitken wished to thank those members of the community who provided feedback on the proposed new Rating and Revenue Plan for the City.

This is an historic strategic policy shift by Council to reduce the differential dollar values in our rate bases in Geelong. The feedback on this change was generally favourable, especially from our commercial ratepayers. Greater Geelong Council wishes to have a fair and equitable rating system which also responds to individual ratepayer hardship. I believe this new revenue and rating plan commits to that principle of fairness.

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