Hepburn Shire Council has released its $59.10 million draft budget for 2023-24 and invited community feedback.

Mayor, Cr Brian Hood, said that the draft budget includes a record $19.56 million investment in capital works projects, which are predominately funded by Council.

“The budget has been prepared in one of the toughest financial environments in recent history,’ said Cr Hood. ‘Our Shire has been significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic, multiple extreme natural disasters, rising inflation and interest rates, sector-wide shortages of construction contractors and extraordinary increases to material and construction costs.

“We have sought to deliver a fiscally responsible budget that aims to achieve actions in our Council Plan, whilst balancing available resources and community expectations. We are in a delicate and challenging financial position which we will continue to manage prudently,” he said.

Council will continue to invest in projects that align with priorities in the four-year Council Plan and the Municipal Public Health and Wellbeing Plan including the Early and Middle Years, Youth and Positive Ageing strategies, Disability Action and Inclusion Plan and Gender Equality Action Plan.

The budget also continues the implementation of the Sustainable Hepburn strategy, including initiatives relating to circular economy, reducing emissions, protecting the natural environment and biodiversity, low waste initiatives and climate and water resilience.

Capital works highlights in the draft budget include:

  • Major investment in roads of $2.73 million, made up of $1.28 million for pavement rehabilitation, $950,000 for road renewal, and $500,000 for gravel road re-sheeting.
  • Construction of the Creswick Trails ($5.9 million).
  • Renewal of the historic Wheelers Bridge ($3.2 million, supported by $2.8 million from the Federal Government).
  • Renewal works to protect and improve the historic Daylesford Town Hall ($1.0 million).
  • Completion of the Trentham Community Hub ($2.02 million), which will deliver a library, Council hub and community facilities.
  • Detailed planning for Glenlyon Recreation Reserve Pavilion redevelopment ($150,000).
  • Repairs to Trentham and Drummond tennis courts ($140,000).
  • Detailed designs for the Clunes Recreation Reserve Masterplan ($100,000).
  • Cyber security initiatives for data protection ($130,000).
  • Review options for increased regulation of short-term accommodation properties ($30,000).

The budget proposes $5.9 million of new borrowings to support the delivery of key infrastructure assets, including $1 million for stage one of critical remedial works for the Daylesford Town Hall to ensure the long-term structural integrity of the building, and $4.9 million to be allocated to the construction of the 60-kilometre Creswick Trails.

The total cost of the Creswick Trails project, which started in 2017 and is under construction, is expected to total $9.4 million. Council has secured government funding of $2.57 million towards this project and is continuing to lobby government for additional financial support.

“Along with hosting Commonwealth Games competition in 2026, the Creswick Trails network will be one of Australia’s key mountain biking destinations,” said Cr Hood.

The budget continues the important delivery of more than 100 services to the community, including road maintenance and repair, library services, early years, youth and positive ageing programs, emergency management response, major projects, tourism, grants and more.

Hepburn Shire was severely impacted by storm events in June 2021 (east of Shire), in January 2022 (west of Shire), and in October 2022 (Shire-wide). Forecast expenditure on storm events is $20.8 million by June 2024, with a net cost to Council (after government grants) close to $2.5 million, equivalent to 12.4% of Council’s annual general rates revenue.

“Planning for our future is an important component of our draft budget, with $2 million allocated to further enhance and support both our statutory and strategic planning activities. This includes development of critically important town structure plans as part of our Future Hepburn project,” said Cr Hood.

Rates and charges

Rates and charges make up over half of Council’s annual budgeted revenue and are vital to provide the services and facilities for the community. Rate increases have been capped at 3.5% in line with the Victorian Government’s Fair Go Rates System even though the CPI has increased 7% in the past year to March.

Properties are revalued each year by the State Government and rates are based on the value of a property. However, rates income is not tied directly to property values. The total increase in rates income is capped at 3.5%.

“There can be a misconception that Council receives additional revenue when the property market increases. This is not the case. The rate revenue for 2023/24 can only increase by 3.5% over the amount of rates collected in the 2022/23 (current) financial year,” said Cr Hood.

Consequently, based on property value, some residents will incur a rate increase of more than 3.5%, while others will incur an increase of less than 3.5% and some will see a decrease in rates.

Pensioners who qualify under the State Government’s Pensioner Rebate Remission scheme will be entitled to a Council-funded rebate of $21.

Under the draft budget the annual waste charges will increase approximately 6.2% on average to meet the increased costs of the service. The standard annual fee for a residential property (weekly garbage collection and fortnightly recycling) will be $570 (or $10.96 per week).

Have your say

The community can view the draft budget and budget summary at https://participate.hepburn.vic.gov.au/draft-budget. Submissions are open until 5pm on Thursday 8 June. Council will consider the budget at a Special Council Meeting to be held on Tuesday 27 June. Council meetings are livestreamed via Facebook.