Rate rise adopted

WELLINGTON Shire Council’s 2013-14 budget has been adopted, but not before a last minute attempt to reduce the rate rise from six per cent.

Before council voted to adopt the budget on Tuesday afternoon, Cr John Duncan proposed a rate increase of four per cent.

To cover the reduced rate increase, Cr Duncan proposed a decrease in budgeted income of $836,910 and cutting expenditure by $1.3 million, mainly in capital projects.

Cr Duncan claimed the six per cent rate increase, roughly double the consumer price index, was unsustainable in the current economic climate.

“We can’t vote this budget in because the six per cent represents an unsustainable lift in rates,” he said.

“There is not a bottomless pit of money we can draw from.”

Cr Duncan’s proposal would only have been discussed if the budget was not adopted.

Cr Darren McCubbin challenged Cr Duncan and Patrick McIvor, the other councillor to vote against the budget, to identify the areas they would cut to accommodate a lower rate rise.

“You cannot just give to the officers and say ‘we’re going to cut $1.3 million’ and not say where that $1.3 million is from,” he said.

“We’ve actually got to put your body on the line and say what those cuts are going to be.

“If I haven’t got the guts to tell you what I’m going to cut, then, frankly it’s just words, empty words.”

The budget, Cr McCubbin said, would help maintain infrastructure to attract people and business to the shire.

“It’s very important that we maintain and grow our infrastructure, because they are connected to the growth of our shire,” he said.

Cr Peter Cleary said council had spent a lot of time preparing a balanced and sensible budget which met the needs of residents.

With big projects such at the Yarram Hub partially funded through state government grants, Cr McIvor claimed a one per cent rate rise represented $450,000.

“When we say we can’t find efficiencies for $450,000 to reduce the burden by one per cent on our ratepayers, I think that’s not good enough,” he said.

“When we talk about all these services that we deliver as if finding some small efficiencies in a big budget and that all these services aren’t going to get delivered, I think is misinformation.”

The budget features $36.5 million in capital works, including $5 million for a new art gallery and library in Sale, $4.9 million for the Yarram Community Hub and $635,000 to upgrade the Rosedale pool.

The overall rise in rates and charges is 5.7 per cent, with the waste infrastructure and EPA levy charges remaining at $32 and $14.92 respectively and the garbage charge increase by $5 to $169.

´╗┐For more read Friday’s Gippsland Times.