Council releases draft budget for 2020-21

Southern Grampians Shire Council has released its draft 2020-21 budget, focusing on delivering critical services and initiatives to support the community in recovering from a challenging start to this year.

The draft budget is now available for public comment, to be adopted by Council at a Meeting on 8 July.

While Council was granted an extension to complete the budget process due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was determined that progressing forward under “normal” timeframes was crucial to providing surety to the community of the continued delivery of services. Keeping to the original timelines also provides Council with the mechanisms to prepare tender documents and commence the delivery of capital works projects without lengthy delays.

Southern Grampians Shire Council Mayor Chris Sharples said the start to 2020 has been unprecedented in its impacts to the economic, social and emotional health and wellbeing of the community.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has presented us all with fresh risks and challenges, following what was already a difficult start to 2020 with devastating bushfires across much of the State. It is critical that we are able to adapt and respond to the social and economic needs of the community over the course of the next financial year”, he said.

“In response to these uncertain times, Council has proposed rates to increase by only 1.75%, instead of the 2% rate cap set by the Minister for Local Government. The balance of funds, approximately $328,000 will be set aside and dedicated to assist in COVID-19 activities. This may take the form of assisting those temporarily in financial hardship, fostering business/economic stimulus or supporting new funding opportunities that may arise.

“In doing this, we hope that the budget provides full support to assist our communities to get back on their feet following the pandemic, while continuing to provide essential services, facilities and programs.”

In 2017, Council developed an aspirational yet deliverable Council Plan (2017-21), following extensive consultation with the community. Over the past three years Council worked to turn these plans and aspirations into reality and this 2020/21 Budget finalises much of that work.

The key initiatives outlined in $58.545m 2020/21 budget include:

• Deliver the Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy as adopted by Council including landfill, transfer stations and collection initiatives.

• Continue the feasibility steps for a new Hamilton Gallery.

• Commence the delivery of priority improvements of recreation and leisure facilities in response to the findings of the Recreation and Leisure Strategy, including Lake Hamilton.

• Continue advocacy on key Council priorities to Regional organisations (Great South Coast & Grampians), State and Federal Governments.

• Implement an investment attraction program that focuses on the key industries of agriculture, manufacturing, retail, tourism and the digital economy.

• Invest in the appropriate systems, processes and training to support an environment which delivers a seamless customer experience.

A Capital Works program of just over $13 million sees a major investment in roads, bridges, footpaths and associated infrastructure works. Highlights of the Capital Works program for the 2020/21 year include:

• Continue significant investment into local roads, bridges and other Council owned infrastructure.

• Deliver essential works at transfer station and landfill sites.

• Implement works associated with Council Buildings Asset Management Strategy.

The Draft 2020/21 Operating Budget forecasts an operating deficit of $3.187 million and Council anticipates to hold $9.742 million cash at 30 June 2021.

The municipal charge will increase by 1.5% from $200 to $203. The waste service charge will increase from $295 to $360 (or $415 for those not previously receiving FOGO collection to include purchasing of the new bin) for all improved residential properties in all townships to cover the rollout of Council’s new compulsory organic waste collection service.

“This draft budget demonstrates our continued focus on delivering quality services for the community while being conscious of the longer term financial impacts. We understand that our community has high expectations of us and what we deliver for their rate dollar so it is important that we continue to identify efficiencies and review all activities against community identified priorities”, Cr Sharples said.

“I am confident the draft budget delivers fairness, responsibility and opportunity in equal measure. We’re keen to know what people think, and invite our community to participate in the budget submission process,” Cr Sharples concluded.

Any person proposing to make a submission must do so in writing before 5.00pm on 15 June 2020. Submissions should be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Southern Grampians Shire Council, Locked Bag 685, Hamilton 3300 or council@sthgrampians.vic.gov.au. Persons making submissions are requested to indicate whether they wish to be heard in support of their submission and whether they will attend in person and/or be represented by some other person. Submissions will be heard by Councillors on 24 June.

Adoption of the 2020/21 budget will be considered on Wednesday 8 July 2020, taking into account any public submissions which have been received.

Due to the current coronavirus pandemic and closure of customer service centres, the budget can only be viewed online at Council’s website www.sthgrampians.vic.gov.au. Alternatively, a copy can be emailed or printed and posted if required by calling customer service 55730444.

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