Lower rate rise

IF there are council rate rises in Wellington Shire next financial year,  they won’t exceed 2.5 per cent.

Wellington Shire Council was absent from a list of 21 Victorian councils which have notified the Essential Services Commission of their intentions to apply for rate increases higher than the 2.5 per cent cap set by the state government.

Latrobe City and Bass Coast Shire councils intend to submit an application to the ESC.

A Wellington Shire Council spokesperson told the Gippsland Times it did not intend to apply.

Councils have until March 31 to submit applications to the ESC, which expects to make its final decisions by the end of May.

Councils must demonstrate the reasons for seeking higher caps and how the views of ratepayers have been taken into account.

Last year, Wellington Shire had a 3.5 per cent rise in the general rate, its lowest in more than a decade. 

It came after a review of council services with the prospect of a rate cap and dwindling funding from state and federal governments.

Wellington Shire Council recorded an operating result for the first half of the financial year, a surplus of $28.8 million, compared to the budgeted surplus of $21.2 million.

According to its December 2015 performance report, council expected the final surplus for 2015-16 to be $1.6 million, a decline of $321,000 from its budget.

The majority of the change can be traced to the removal of $6 million in state government grants for 2015-16, which were received on June 30, and the receiving of additional federal Roads to Recovery funding and the recognition of assets contributions.

Councillor Peter Cleary said council remained in “a solid financial position”.

“This year, we’re running very close to budget,” he said.

“Expenditure is about what we expected it to be for this time of year.”

The performance report also included updates on projects across the shire.

Cr Cleary highlighted that work to build a roundabout at the intersection of Cobains Rd and the Princes Highway in Sale was progressing on schedule.

Designs and a memorandum of understanding have been prepared and are currently under review.

Rehabilitation of the Longford landfill will not occur during this financial year.

Council is awaiting a response from the Environmental Protection Authority on hydrology and gas reports for the site. 

The report confirms council’s position that the landfill be classified as a low risk for works to begin.