Council delays budget vote

Just how much more Wellington Shire ratepayers will have to pay in rates and charges will not be decided until next Tuesday.

The Special Council Meeting scheduled for 6pm last Tuesday to consider the draft budget was postponed at short notice when it was realised a number of councillors and some of those wishing to speak to their objections would be unable to attend because of flooding across the shire.

Wellington Shire Council has increased its rates and charges at significantly more than the annual Consumer Price Index and the increase in the minimum wage for more than the past decade.

The draft budget proposes council’s income from all rates and charges increase by 5.1 per cent for the 2012/13 year, raising total rates of $43.2 million (11/12 $41.1 million).

The Waste Infrastructure Charge will remain at $32, and the Garbage Charge will remain at $164. The separately itemised EPA Levy Charge will also remain at $14.92 for each property which receives a garbage collection service.

The rescheduled meeting will receive objections from Victorian Farmers Federation branch president John Buxton, VFF branch member Fergus Irving and from Sale resident Carol Glover.

Dr Glover’s objection is concise and to the point.

“Here is my submission for the draft budget, albeit a waste of time, aside from the satisfaction it gives me to say what I think most ratepayers think but don’t (or think they can’t) take the trouble to articulate,” she wrote.

“I object to the draft budget in particular the rates increase (yet another!). If business wants to attract visitors or new residents to the Shire to increase their profits, let them fund your incessant development projects (eg. Sale Mall). Another way you can stop these hikes is to review the ridiculous salaries of the Shire workers, also Councillor allowances which seem to be de facto salaries for what used to be a voluntary role.”

Mr Buxton contended the current rating system was unfair to farmers.

He argued the capital improved value system was not appropriate for assessing farmland rates as it does not accurately capture the capacity to pay nor the benefit received.

He pointed out farmers pay a substantially greater proportion of the shire’s rates yet make a lower demand on services. He called on the council to meet with the farmer’s federation to develop a rating system that will support farm businesses.

Mr Irving commended the council’s plan to develop a Community Engagement Plan for rating and budget purposes and indicates the farming community’s desire to make significant input to that proposed plan. He also encouraged the council to ensure the future of a livestock exchange within the shire, pointing out that many of the shire’s facilities do not return a profit but provide benefit indirectly to the broader community.

The meeting’s agenda and objections can be viewed on the council’s website.