5% rate rise for Ararat

ARARAT - Ararat Rural City Council has proposed a rate rise of five per cent for the 2014/2015 year, adopting its draft budget on Tuesday night.

Council's 2014/15 draft budget has been prepared for public exhibition and proposes to increase rates, municipal charges and waste management charges by five per cent.

Mayor Cr Paul Hooper said that under the Local Government Act 1989 the primary objective of a council is to endeavour to achieve the best outcomes for the local community having regard to the long term and cumulative effects of decisions.

"The five per cent rate rise is considered to be the minimum amount required to fulfil Council's current legal obligations, and Council recognizes that as we get better data on our asset backlog, higher rises may be required in the future to reduce that backlog," Cr Hooper said.

"To assist pensioners, the draft budget also proposes to increase the pension concession for eligible recipients by five per cent.

"The budget this year has been drafted as a balanced budget within the five per cent rise, and this has been done, not because we don't need the additional funds, but primarily because we don't believe the community can afford a higher rise at this phase of the economic cycle."

Cr Hooper said the 2014/2015 proposed budget includes a number of new initiatives that will add to the extensive services already provided by Council.

The major additions this year include:

Potential renewal and upgrade works at the Ararat Performing Arts Centre/Ararat Regional Art Gallery ($3.55 million).

Pomonal Community Centre redevelopment ($800,000).

Replacing inefficient residential street lighting with new energy efficient street lighting (total project cost of $0.385 million over the next two years).

Langi Morgala Museum upgrade works ($65,000).

Olver Stand investigation and repairs ($50,000).

The total Capital Works program will be $10.882 million.

Cr Hooper said of the $10.882 million in Capital funding required, $3.824 million will come from Council operations, $5.163 million from external grants, $0.15 million from community contributions, $0.5 million transferred from council reserves, $0.245 million from asset sales and $1 million from new loans.

Highlights of the Capital Works program include:

Roads ($4.821 million) - Including road reconstructions, Roads to Recovery projects, re-sheeting, bridge improvements, culvert replacement and footpaths (including new kerb ramps for disabled access).

Drains ($0.360 million) - Including road drainage replacement works.

Buildings ($4.535 million) - Including renewal and upgrade works - $3.55 million for the Ararat Performing Arts Centre and $0.8 million for Pomonal Community Centre.

Plant and equipment ($1.106 million) - Including major items of plant and vehicles.

"The 2014/2015 budget continues the principles of prudent and sustainable long-term financial management, and has been developed through a rigorous process of consultation, and review of existing expenditure," Cr Hooper said.

"Council endorses this Budget as a financially responsible outcome."

On Tuesday night Council also released its draft Rating Strategy for public comment.

The Rating Strategy is proposing to retain the same differential weightings as 2013/14, with commercial properties at 160 per cent of the general rate, industrial properties at 130 per cent of the general rate and farm properties at 60 per cent of the general rate.

The most significant change in the Rating Strategy is to offer lump sum payments once again. A number of ratepayers were concerned about the change to instalments only in 2013/14 so Council has decided to offer payments by lump sum with the due date of 16 February 2016.

Ratepayers who elect to pay by direct debit can pay rates and charges over nine months or 18 fortnights, free of interest, commencing the last Friday in September and finishing the following May. Direct Debit applications can be downloaded from www.ararat.vic.gov.au and are also available from the municipal offices at 59 Vincent Street, Ararat.

A revaluation of all properties within the municipality has recently been carried out, and will apply for the financial year 2014/15. Following this revaluation, there has been an overall increase in valuations for all differential property types - general valuations increased by 0.36 per cent, commercial valuations increased by 10.18 per cent, industrial valuations increased by 7.52 per cent and farm valuations increased by only two per cent.

"Contrary to public perception, a revaluation of all properties does not result in additional rate income for Council," Cr Hooper said.

"The rise is standardised with some ratepayers who will pay more than the five per cent increase, and some ratepayers who will pay less than the five per cent increase, depending on the percentage change in the value of the individual properties."

The rate rise of five per cent will result in an additional $0.638 million in general rates (excluding municipal charges). Of the $0.638 million, an additional $0.217 million will come from general properties, $0.133 million will come from commercial properties, $0.017 million will come from industrial properties and $0.272 million will come from farm properties.

The average rate will increase by $38 for general properties, $392 for commercial properties, $204 for industrial properties and $156 for farm properties.

Copies of the draft budget 2014/15 and the 2014 Rating Strategy are available for inspection at the Ararat Rural City Council Municipal Office, 59 Vincent Street Ararat. The proposed budget and rating strategy can also be viewed or downloaded fromwww.ararat.vic.gov.au.

Interested persons are invited to make a written submission if they wish to, with submissions to be received at the Municipal Offices not later than 5.15pm on Friday 6 June 2014.

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