Draft budget set to be released

Ararat Rural City Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper, Member for Western Victoria David O'Brien, Councillor Glenda McLean and Local Government Minister Tim Bull met in Ararat in recently. Picture: BEN KIMBER
Ararat Rural City Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper, Member for Western Victoria David O'Brien, Councillor Glenda McLean and Local Government Minister Tim Bull met in Ararat in recently. Picture: BEN KIMBER

ARARAT - 'There is no simple answer and there is no quick solution', that is the reality of the growing rate burden faced by people in the Ararat Rural City according to Mayor, Cr Paul Hooper.

Cr Hooper's statement comes as the council prepares to release its draft Budget for the 2014/15 financial year.

Contained in the budget will be the amount council intends to raise municipal rates charge by, that could be anywhere between three and 10 percent.

Rates in the Ararat Rural City have risen a total of 44 percent since 2007, an average of six percent a year.

That is lower than the 45 percent increase faced by the Northern Grampians Shire counterparts for the same period, but is cold comfort for residents facing another yet to be announced rate rise.

Last year, council took the unprecedented decision to back flip on its intended rate rise of seven percent and reduced that to six percent, in response to widespread community concern.

Councillors have met with the new Minister for Local Government, Tim Bull to discuss some of the issues faced by the municipality, of largest concern for council is the rate burden faced by people in this local government area.

In his first visit to Ararat in his new role Mr Bull said he discussed with council what is a common challenge faced by councils across the state.

"Clearly one of the issues raised was having a low ratepayer base and keeping up with the infrastructure challenges throughout the length and breadth of the shire."

"The government's been doing a lot of work in this area to try and assist councils through the Country Roads and Bridges Program and through the Local Government Infrastructure Fund which sits under the banner of the Regional Growth Fund.

"I was very interested to hear how council has utilised those funds to improve infrastructure within their local area... we received a bit of an update on how the pest, plant and weeds on roadside programs is going, where the state is providing some funding."

Cr Hooper said it was a good opportunity to provide the minister with an understanding and the background of Ararat.

"By coincidence the minister's home patch is very similar in terms of having a huge geographic region to cater for but obviously a low population base," he said.

"Where we have 4,000km2 of territory he's closer to 12,000km2 of territory. He has a very good background and understanding of the issues small population rate bases have trying to support large infrastructure needs.

"It's a long process, it's all about competing needs for resources, there is no simple answer and there is no quick solution, we'll just keep banging away."

Meanwhile, the state government continues to push ahead with what it calls the most significant reforms to local government in 20 years.

The government has announced the commencement of new performance and reporting regulations for the state's 79 councils.

Mr Bull said the reporting reforms are crucial in ensuring Victorians can be confident their local councils are strong and accountable and public money is being invested wisely on high quality services, infrastructure and facilities for residents and ratepayers.

The government has also introduced legislation to parliament that will set higher performance and conduct standards for local Government representatives.

"From Tuesday, July 1 the new Performance Reporting Framework will better identify where councils are performing well, where they need to improve and whether the community is getting value for money," Mr Bull said.

"Victoria is leading the country in boosting the performance of local government with a strong focus on improving transparency, reducing red tape, removing duplication and modernising reporting to the community.

"Victorians should know that they can trust their elected council representatives and feel confident there are effective measures in place to deal appropriately and quickly with any instance of poor conduct and performance.

"This new legislation is designed to protect the reputation of the overwhelming majority of councillors who are honourable hardworking people doing their utmost for their communities.

"These reforms will provide a clear direction for all councillors and councils to fulfil their civic duties responsibly."


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