The rising cost of living and current economic climate were key considerations in Council’s draft Budget and draft Community Plan Action Plan 2023-24, which aims to strike a balance between delivering essential services and projects and a financially sustainable future.
The draft Budget and draft Action Plan were endorsed for community consultation at the Council Meeting on 21 March 2023.
Chair Administrator Lydia Wilson said the draft Budget had been carefully crafted in light of the current economic climate.
“The past few years have been challenging for our community with the pandemic and now cost of living pressure,” she said.
“In light of this we have developed this draft Budget with a focus on delivering on the ground funding that can make an immediate impact including boosts to grants and more funds for seniors groups.
“We’ve also prioritized spending on open space in response to community feedback on maintenance of parks and local streets.”
The $372.69 million draft Budget includes an operating budget of $294.85 million and a focused capital works program of $77.83 million.
To lessen the burden on families, the Budget proposes that Council continues to subsidise waste charges, specifically the State Government Landfill Levy.
“We have been subsidising the cost of providing the kerbside waste collection for many years and despite adding a new service, glass recycling, our waste charges continue to remain significantly less than other Councils who are facing similar cost pressures,” Ms Wilson said.
“To continue to be financially responsible and to ensure we can continue to meet the growing demands of our community for infrastructure and services, the City of Whittlesea is aiming to move towards a zero-subsidy model by 2025-26; subject to the easing of economic pressures on our community.”
Ms Wilson said Council delivered 147 services to the local community each year as well as building and maintaining essential roads, infrastructure and facilities.
“We need to strike a careful balance between delivering what we need now for our growing community and ensuring we are financially sustainable into the future,” she said.
To do so, the Budget proposes an average rate increase of 3.5 percent in 2023-24, in line with the rate cap set by the Victorian Government despite inflation rising by 7.8% in the 12 months to the December 2022 quarter.
Highlights of the draft Budget include:
- opening libraries at the Mernda Town Centre and Kirrip Community Centre in Wollert
- increasing funding for community grants by 33% to $2.69 million
- launching a Whittlesea Services Hub in Whittlesea township to make it easier for residents in the northern part of the municipality to communicate and transact with Council
- developing a one-stop-shop online customer portal to make it easier for customers to interact with Council online
- delivering a multi-faceted program to tackle illegal rubbish dumping and improve local amenity especially in new communities
- developing a new Community Local Law to reflect the community’s views on how we want to show respect for one another, protect our people and our local environment
- funding to support local business including a grants program, industry development programs and an Agri-Food Action Plan to attract investment in the sector
- finalising the renewed Epping Central Structure Plan to ensure the precinct continues to thrive as an employment, housing, retail, health and education hub;
- commencing the design and site preparation of the Regional Aquatic and Sport Centre;
- continuing the construction of Granite Hills Major Community Park; and
- commencing construction of the Aboriginal Gathering Place.
The draft Action Plan includes 56 key priority actions in addition to our ongoing service delivery across Council’s five overarching goals of Connected Community, Strong Local Economy, Sustainable Environment, Liveable Neighbourhoods and a High Performing Organisation which support our Whittlesea 2040 vision of A Place for All.
Ms Wilson said the draft Budget and Action Plan were informed by considerable community feedback gathered last year.
“In August and September last year we asked the community to help identify their priorities. We’ve used this and feedback from our ongoing conversations with the community to help us shape these important documents,” she said.
“Now we are inviting further feedback on the draft documents.”