ARARAT Rural City Council has released its draft budget 2019-20 to the public for comment.
In a special meeting Tuesday night council chief executive Dr Tim Harrison told the councillors that the budget is "back in the black."
The budget forecasts a surplus of $3.214 million, as compared with the 2018-19 budget which has a projected deficit of $.7 million.
Additionally, the council has restructured the presentation of its budget documents, which multiple councillors said would increase the transparency of council's finances to the public.
"It's all in black and white," Councillor Gwenda Allgood said.
"I've been waiting for many years for this to happen. When people come and ask you where their money is going, now it is all in black and white."
Cr Allgood also described it as a more "honest" document.
The document breaks down very clearly where the council is spending its money, said the mayor, Councillor Peter Beales.
"This budget is so different from our past ones," he said.
Cr Beales added that previously, expenditure was often hidden away under one generic sub-heading, but in the new one it broke expenditure down very clearly.
Rates and rubbish
Rate differentials will remain the same as in the 2018-19 period.
In June 2018 the council resolved to retain these differentials until the end of the financial year in 2021.
General rates will rise by 4.5 per cent, industrial rates will rise by 5.64 per cent, commercial rates will rise by 2.79 per cent, and farm rates will rise 2.46 per cent.
This falls to an average rate rise of 2.5 per cent, which aligns with the rate cap.
The cap applies to both general rates and municipal charges and is calculated on the basis of council's average rates and charges.
The expected rates revaluation percentage changes sit between one and four per cent increases for all classes of property.
The waste service charge, which includes kerbside rubbish collection, will also increase an average of 2.5 per cent.
The projected rates revenue for 2018-19 is $16.97 million.
Where will council invest?
The budget stated that it 'represents Council's single largest investment in Capital Works ever.'
The council will invest $14.689 million into capital works. In the previous financial year it invested $12.325 million.
That expenditure will be comprised of council money, government grants, and asset sales.
Some of the major capital works projects the council will undertake include:
- $9.489 million for roads - this includes road reconstruction, reseals, re-sheeting of gravel roads, bridge and culvert replacement and rehabilitation, footpath works and curb and channel improvements;
- $3.753 million in community facilities including upgrades to the Elmhurst Hall, completion of the Alexandra Active Corridor Project and provision for upgrades to female change facilities at the Willaura Recreation Reserve;
- The construction of eWaste facilities at both Lake Bolac and Ararat.
The council has budgeted $350,000 toward the Elmhurst Hall upgrade, and $400,000 toward the construction of female friendly facilities at the Willaura Recreation Reserve, which Dr Harrison said were "key elements we should be proud of."
"There's lots of spending in this," Mayor Peter Beales said.
"Lots of contractors and local businesses will benefit from this.
"We're doubling the amount to the recreation reserves - and that is retrospective."
Savings to the tune of half a million have been made in staff salaries after the council restructured its departments late last year.
Moving forward, the council will invest funds to councillor training programs, and will also implement a customer charter.
Making a submission
Submissions will be accepted on and before June 7.
Written submissions should be marked for the attention of the Chief Executive Officer and can either be lodged at Council's Municipal Office, 59 Vincent Street, Ararat or mailed to Council at PO Box 246, Ararat 3377.
Copies are available at the council offices on the corner of Vincent and High Streets, Ararat, or online here.
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