Council to Consider Proposed Budget 2023/2024

The proposed Budget 2023/2024 will be considered for adoption at the next Council meeting on Monday May 22 at Bendigo Town Hall.

The proposed Budget supports the City's Community Vision, Council Plan (Mir wimbul) 2021-2025 and other key strategies, including the Climate Change and Environment Strategy 2021-2026 and Healthy Greater Bendigo 2021-2025.

City Director Corporate Performance Jessica Howard said community priorities were carefully considered to deliver a responsible and financially sustainable Budget.

"This year's Budget is the most challenging the City has experienced in some time, and we are dealing with the same cost escalation challenges being experienced by many other organisations," Ms Howard said.

"Despite this, a $68M capital works program will continue the delivery of multi-year projects, enhance the City's healthy liveable places and spaces and invest in renewing and maintaining the City's existing assets.

"The $168M operating Budget will continue to fund 69 important community services, such as waste services, street cleaning, maintaining parks and gardens, maternal and child health and early years' services, statutory planning, environmental health, the Bendigo Animal Relief Centre, Bendigo Art Gallery, Ulumbarra and The Capital theatres and much more.

"The City is acutely aware of the financial stress many households and businesses are under, and the Budget funds many important projects and services the community relies upon. City-led investments also help to invigorate the local economy.

"For most local governments, the reality of operating under rate-capping, with the cost of materials and services increasing, means there are many community projects that could not be funded in this Budget.

"The Budget will be supported by a conservative amount of borrowings of up to $8.6M. A prudent approach is necessary to avoid placing additional financial pressure on the organisation, with borrowings to fund significant capital projects where there is a demonstrated benefit to future generations.

"The Budget focus has been on community priorities that enhance residents' everyday living, ensuring we see through financial commitments for multi-year capital works projects and continuing to deliver important services to the community."

Healthy and liveable places and spaces

Creating healthy and liveable places and spaces was identified as a top priority from the community during consultation late last year and is a key theme in the Council Plan.

There is a $2.09M investment to improve the City's open spaces:

  • New shared paths and trails will see delivery of stage one of the Ironbark Gully Trail, between Nolan Street and Holmes Road
  • Starting with design work, commence the multi-year Bendigo Low Line separated walking/cycling network between Golden Square and Lake Weeroona
  • Investment over two Budget years in the Emu Creek underpass at Strathfieldsaye Municipal Baths redevelopment work begins in line with the Rosalind Park Recreation Reserve Precinct Master Plan
  • Work begins on a multi-year Strathfieldsaye Town Square project and shared path between Wellesley Street and Apsley Lane, as part of implementing the Strathfieldsaye Town Centre Urban Framework
  • Design shared paths for Rennie Street and Gungurru Street, Huntly
  • Construction of new concrete footpaths in various priority locations
  • Commence a multi-year upgrade of the Midland Highway/Waratah Road with traffic signals

Projects to strengthen future economic growth and opportunities:

• Complete stage one of the Bendigo Airport redevelopment, including an upgraded terminal building

• Complete the Bendigo Tramways workshop expansion

• Support the Victorian Planning Authority to prepare a master plan for the Bendigo Regional Employment Precinct in Marong

Environment initiatives to counter climate change:

The Budget includes a range of initiatives to protect the region's environment and progress with actions to achieve zero emissions in Greater Bendigo by 2030.

• A contribution to a local carbon offset pilot program

• Progress electrification projects at City-owned sites

• Promote biodiversity community engagement to support Landcare and other environmental activities in the community

• A sustainable land management education program for landowners with small grants available

Building the region's flood resilience:

• Begin detailed design for a Bendigo Creek levee from Racecourse Creek at Midland Highway to Leans Road in Huntly including a shared path

• Rehabilitation works at Bendigo Creek near Weeroona Avenue in White Hills

• Stage two funding for the reservoir dam wall at Kennington

• Stage two in-stream Bendigo Creek works

Recreation facilities play a key role in bringing the community together and this Budget completes some multi-year investment commitments for growing communities.

Recreational facilities:

• Final stage funding ($3.5M) for the shared Mercy Junortoun Sporting Precinct, which is close to completion

• Complete the concept design for the Quarry Hill Recreation Reserve pavilion renewal (Ken Wust)

• Improve accessibility and upgrades to facilities at Red Energy Arena (Bendigo Stadium)

• Multi-year funding continues at Strathfieldsaye Club Court with $1.6M to improve facilities

• Tom Flood Sport Centre fencing, gates, and lighting

• Maiden Gully Recreation Reserve Tennis Pavilion shelter, storage and toilet works, tennis lighting and hard surface renewal

• Bendigo Tennis Centre lighting renewal

Renewing and maintaining the City's $2.5B worth of assets:

The Budget includes $36M in renewal capital works, including:

• $10M for sealed roads

• $3.9M for unsealed roads

• $2.6M for drainage works

• $2.1M for works on footpaths and shared paths.

• $6.9M for buildings

Community-focused projects:

• Establish a secure annual grants program over the next three years to support Neighbourhood Houses in Eaglehawk, Heathcote, Kangaroo Flat, Long Gully, Marong, and Bendigo

• Subject to external funding, stage one for a new Marong kindergarten is earmarked as part of a multi-year investment for a community township hub

• A Changing Places accessibility facility on High Street, Heathcote

• Funding to address non-compliant disabled car parking, pedestrian crossings, and footpaths

• Cooinda Park public toilet renewal to improve accessibility

• Subject to external funding, design plans are earmarked to extend Spring Gully kindergarten

• Play space renewals at Prouses Road, North Bendigo; Akoonah Drive, Golden Square; Long Gully Neighbourhood House; and Melbury Court, Epsom

Innovation to improve customer experience:

• Implement wayfinding technology to assist drivers with locating vacant parking bays in the city centre

• Implementation of software to improve the City's overall cyber security and increase data protection

• Deliver a new user-friendly City website and develop a customer portal for improved customer experience

Fees and charges

Small increases in fees and charges are necessary to adequately service the needs of the community and respond to rising costs.

Waste management charges will see a small rise to cover increased costs for this service. The City does not make a profit from any general waste and recovery services, which includes organics and recycling activities, the landfill and transfer stations. For most properties, the waste charge will increase by $27 per property ($16 for general waste, $5.50 for recycling and $5.10 for organics) in the next financial year.

Parking will see an hourly parking fee change from $1.90 per hour to $2.10 per hour. The daily rate will change from $6.70 to $7.20. Parking initiatives in the new financial year will invest in wayfinding technology via an app to assist drivers to locate vacant parking bays in the city centre. More smart parking meters will also be installed.

"Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases to fees have been applied across most City fees. These fee increases are not intended to make up lost revenue from previous years where fees were frozen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather to reinstate annual increases," Ms Howard said.

The full proposed Budget is on the Council Meeting agenda.

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