Council is considering a freeze on rate rises

David Braithwaite

COVID-19 rules lead to council meeting changes

WELLINGTON Shire Council is proposing a freeze on rate rises for its 2020-21 budget.

However, it will be looking at ways to make long term savings.

Council will release its draft budget today for community comment.

While the state government cap on rate rises is two per cent this year, council is proposing no increase in the general rate and no increase to any other rate-related service charges.

Rates for individual properties are likely to change, as the rate is based on property values, determined independently of council.

The garbage charge will remain at $222, waste infrastructure at $55 and Environmental Protection Authority levy charge at $16.92.

The decision on the rates and charges follows the effect drought, the closure of native timber harvesting, bushfires (particularly in relation to tourism) and coronavirus have had on the local economy and community.

With a $4.3 million operating deficit forecast for this financial year and a $1.1 million operating deficit budgeted for 2020-21, council will work to identify where savings can be made in the longer term, including staff and salary levels.

There are likely to be some service cuts or reductions, with council looking to maintain and improve key services which are used the most and valued by the community.

After allocating $1 million for drought relief in last year’s budget, council will look for more ways to support the rural sector. The rate differential for farm land will be retained.

The draft budget includes new capital works valued at $48.7 million, with $29.1 million coming from council, $12.6 million from grants and $7 million from new borrowings.

With works carried over from 2019-20, there will be $52.1 million in projects in the new budget.

Works included in the budget include the ongoing redevelopment of the Cameron Sporting Complex, Maffra; Stratford Recreation Reserve netball change rooms; Sale and Maffra streetscape renewals; safety upgrades on Gormandale-Stradbroke Rd, Gormandale; reconstruction of Ingles Rd Bridge, Devon North; renewal of toilets at Apex Park and Harbeck St, Heyfield; the roundabout at the intersection of Market and Macarthur Sts, Sale; and Kilmany landfill cell design and construction.

Council will consider the adoption of the budget on June 16.

Today’s meeting will livestreamed on council’s YouTube page from 3pm.