Comment urged on shire budget

WELLINGTON Shire ratepayers can expect a smaller increase in council rates than in past years, following Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Cr Carolyn Crossley proposed Wellington Shire Council advertise its draft 2016/17 budget and revised council plan 2013-17 for community feedback, with councillors unanimously supporting the motion.

In line with new state government policy, the average rate increase in Wellington for 2016/17 has been capped to 2.5 per cent, in line with CPI.

While some individual property owners may experience an increase greater than 2.5 per cent and others a lesser increase as a result of property revaluations that will be sent out from June 1, the overall average across the shire will be capped at 2.5 per cent.

The motion was seconded by Cr Scott Rossetti and unopposed by other councillors.

“This is the first process we have gone through in creating this draft (budget), ” Cr Crossley said.

“We are now obliged, and quite happy, to send it out into the wider community for feedback which we will consider at a later date.

“It’s a useful process of a council, we have had feedback before . . . there are areas that always come in that we have not considered,” she said.

” Later submissions have made their way into the final budget. So we do encourage the community to look at this document.”

While the budget and plan are large documents, Cr Crossley suggested people look to the executive summary and consider the sections of the draft budget and revised council plan that concern them.

“You are certainly welcome to put submissions in that will be looked at.”

In the draft 2016/17 budget council has identified a number of projects intended to improve the appeal of the shire and people’s access to services.

Council proposes to spend $44.3 million during 2016/17 on capital works of which $19.59 million will be funded from grants and contributions including Roads to Recovery funding, and grants toward the ongoing Port of Sale Redevelopment Project and Gippsland Regional Sporting Complex Stage 2A.

Cr Crossley highlighted some of the projects from the 2016/17 capital works program which includes:

Port Albert RV and boating parking improvements and Boating Infrastructure Action Plan works

Redevelopment of the Cowwarr Recreation Reserve clubrooms

Commencement of Yarram Regent Theatre refurbishment works

Streetscape renewal in Yarram and Stratford

Reconstruction of the second stage of Pearson St, Maffra

Sale CBD streetscape renewal continuation along York St

Golden Beach roundabout renewal and parking improvements

Renewal of the McAlister St and Wellsford St roundabout and Redbank Rd and Lee St intersection in Stratford

Widening of Rosedale Flynns Creek Rd

Pound Rd West and Lower Jack Rd intersection at Alberton

Renewal of Lays Bridge at Carrajung

Mayor Darren McCubbin later explained council proposed to spend $2.93 million on residential street schemes construction; $1.48 million on its annual footpaths and shared paths program; and $3.50 million on open space projects.

“Wellington Shire Council will continue to advocate for residents regarding some of the big issues we all face, such as public transport and access to higher education.

“In the coming financial year, we will work alongside our five Gippsland counterparts to seek improved rail connectivity for all Gippsland residents.

“Our community needs improved access to higher education and training outcomes and so we will strongly advocate for the relocation of Federation Training’s Fulham campus to the Sale central business district.

“Council will undertake a review of our community’s vision, Wellington 2030, and conduct service reviews across the organisation in order to explore new approaches for providing services to our community in a tighter fiscal environment,” Cr McCubbin said.

He indicated council would pursue internal opportunities with information technology, recognising that technology can help provide significant long term operational savings.

“The move last year to our Desailly St IT services, coupled with some cost sharing initiatives with our neighbours at East Gippsland Shire Council has enabled us to generate over $180,000 in savings in the past 12 months,” he said.

Other operational savings council has made include a $100,000 reduction in electricity usage through the roll out of LED street lighting, $26,000 reduction in library savings through the replacement of the mobile library with an outreach service; and a $122,000 reduction in electricity and gas costs across all council facilities.

In the draft budget the garbage charge will increase by $6 to $181 per year for applicable properties, while the Waste Infrastructure Charge will rise by $10 to $45. The EPA Levy, which council collects for the EPA, remains at $14.92 per property.

Wellington Shire Council’s draft 2016/17 budget and revised council plan 2013-17 are available online at www.wellington.vic.gov.au/budget, in hard copy at Customer Service Centres in Sale and Yarram and at all Wellington Shire libraries.

Feedback on the budget and plan is invited until Tuesday, May 17 and council will hear submissions at its Tuesday, June 7 meeting.