SUBMISSIONS to Ararat Rural City Council over its 2019-20 budget highlight concerns over rating differentials, a lack of transparency over employee salaries, and the efficacy of the state government's rating review in rural municipalities.
The council held a special meeting Tuesday night to formally accept submissions made by residents over the draft budget.
"At this point we have three written submissions and we have no one who wishes to make a representation to council this evening," council chief Dr Tim Harrison said.
One submission read: 'I have reservations that the rating review to be conducted by the state government will actually achieve meaningful support for our smaller rural councils until a new formula for funding from federal and state allows some of the ever increasing burden to be lifted from all ratepayers.'
On the topic of staff salaries, another submission stated: 'Transparency and good governance require that the salary figures are provided by staff classification and numbers, in common with the state and federal public service transparency. Council employees are funded through the community rates, as such it must be public (sic) transparent.'
The third submission stated a concern that the council 'continues to set rating differentials that propagate huge rating imposts on the rural sector.'
'I am also concerned that despite the government stating that there would be a rate cap of 2.5% last year, the Rural City of Ararat manipulated the way rates would be charged so that grazing farm land was subject to a rate rise of 14.9%.
'This was done despite the recommendations of the Rating Strategy Advisory Group and the Citizens Jury - a total of 32 ratepayers representing all differential rating sectors who spent months developing a fair and equitable strategy.'
The council will further discuss the submissions received at its ordinary meeting on Tuesday June 25.
Key points of the budget include:
- a forecast surplus of $3.214 million;
- Rate differentials will remain the same as in the 2018-19 period;
- 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, falling to an average rate rise of 2.5 per cent, which aligns with the rate cap;
- an investment of $14.689 million into capital works.
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