Council has released its $39.9 million Proposed Budget 2021-2022 and invites the community to review the plans for the year ahead and make a submission. After the community has had a chance to comment Council will consider the budget for adoption at the Special Council Meeting scheduled for 6.00pm on Tuesday 29 June 2021 at the Daylesford Town Hall.
It’s not easy for small rural shires like Hepburn to balance their budgets, keep rates down and meet community expectations. They struggle to meet the cost of building and maintaining transport infrastructure, recreational and community facilities, community services and waste collection for low density widely dispersed populations. Add to this the problems of persuading State and Federal governments to address affordable housing, telecommunications black spots, bushfire risks, access to educational and health facilities and economic development.
Council is aiming for a balanced budget with an 11 percent surplus. Council says individual rate increases have been capped at one and half percent, but overall revenue raised from rates, charges and fines will go up by about 5 percent next year ($1 million in total). Expenses, including staffing, are planned to go down slightly from last year.
Mayor, Cr Lesley Hewitt, said Council has developed a financially responsible budget that is mindful of the impact of COVID, the size of the Shire and the available resources. “The budget allocates funding for the provision of more than 100 services, from home care for older members of the community, to road construction, urban planning, libraries, environmental initiatives, leisure facilities and more,” said Cr Hewitt.
“The global and local impact of COVID-19 is still being felt across the Shire. This budget continues our commitment to support the recovery of our businesses and community through direct investment into projects and activities that will stimulate growth and support our community,” she said. “It specifically includes $11.83 million towards capital works, which will go towards the improvement, renewal and creation of new infrastructure for our Shire. This is a significant allocation of funding, in fact, 63% of general rates, and has been made possible with support from State and Federal Government.
“We have aimed for a ‘business as usual’ budget as we review our financial sustainability and continue to work on our four-year Council Plan and key financial plans under the Hepburn Together Project.”
The budget responds to early feedback from the Hepburn Together project and direction of the new Council. The budget includes additional investment in strategic planning following Council’s review of the Hepburn Planning Scheme (more than $400,000); will include the development of a new Council website ($75,000); includes the development of a new Walking and Cycling Strategy ($90,000); and Council will also undertake a review of key strategies to respond to climate change and environmental development, including the Waste Strategy, Biodiversity Strategy and Sustainability Strategy.
The increase to rate income is capped at 1.5% in line with the Victorian Government’s Fair Go Rates System. “We are a lower rating Council – our average property rates for 2019/2020 were around $115 less than similar sized councils, and around $209 less than all Victorian councils*,” said Cr Hewitt. “One of our biggest challenges this year is managing the costs of waste, which have risen significantly over the last year due to the change in kerbside collection contract rates and a 20% increase in the volume of waste produced,” she said.
The Hub at the Rex has seen costs and timelines blow out. Costs more than doubled from the original budget for the project and the project is years behind in completion. Last year more than $3 million of new borrowings was projected to complete the Hub in the next financial year. This year there is no specific mention of the Hub, despite the project again blowing its time lines.
The proposed budget is available for inspection at Council offices in Daylesford, Clunes, Creswick and Trentham, the Daylesford Library and the Participate Hepburn website at https://participate.hepburn.vic.gov.au.
Submissions are due to Council by Council by 5.00pm on Thursday 20 May 2021. Submit your feedback to Council offices; via the Participate Hepburn website; via post to the Chief Executive Officer, Hepburn Shire Council, PO Box 21, Daylesford VIC 3460; or via email to email@example.com.