Revision accepted

Revision accepted

East Gippsland Shire councillors adopted the revised Draft Budget 2019/20 on Tuesday, hearing public concern and showing their support for drought-affected farmers.

The farm differential rate has been set at 82.5 per cent (rather than the originally proposed 90 per cent) and the commercial/industrial differential rate at 143 per cent (rather than the originally proposed 145 per cent).

General rate and municipal charge revenue will remain as proposed in the original 2019/20 Draft Budget as considered on April 9, and under the Victorian Government’s 2.5 per cent rate cap.

As a result of feedback received at the East Gippsland Field Days held on April 26 and 27 and from the wider community about the impact of the new property valuations across the three classes of rateable properties, particularly for the farm class of properties, further consideration was given to alternative rating strategies that would result in a more even distribution of rates and municipal charge increases across all rating classes.

The revised Draft Budget 2019/20 proposes a rates and municipal charge increase of approximately 2.5 per cent for each class of property.

This will result in an increase in total rates and charges for residential properties of 2.52 per cent (original Draft Budget proposed 1.52 per cent), commercial/industrial properties of 2.39 per cent (proposed 2.6 per cent) and farming properties of 2.45 per cent (proposed 9.88 per cent).

The proposed Capital Works program of $40.623 million is unchanged from the Draft Budget, along with $3.931 million for landfill rehabilitation works.

Cr Marianne Pelz said council heard the feedback from the initial Draft Budget and had worked to find a resolution in their best interest.

“After the East Gippsland Field Days councillors had such a response from the community in regards to the budget proposals so we are putting out a proactive response,” she said.

“From what’s been described the general rates will be slightly higher. When it was equated to me they will be paying on average a price of a coffee.

“In regards to the commercial/industrial they will be getting a reduction and the farm rates will be getting a further reduction on their 10 per cent reduction that they have had in many previous years.

“I would like to state that this is a one-off year that this is going to be offered. The bottom line is that we cannot sustain it in years to come.

“I think the community should be happy with the response that council is working with the feedback from the community and acting proactively in regards to their requests.

“We understand that some years are better than others, but overall this is a fair rating strategy.”

Cr Mark Reeves shared the same sentiment.

“It is very important that we can show our community that we have heard what they have said and we are responsive,” he said.

“By using the levers available to us around differential rates we were able to flatten those variations that have been caused by valuations. We were caught on the hop a bit by the increase in farm valuations and this is the way that we can actually respond to that by using this differential rate strategy.

“We want this region to be just a great place to farm, live, grow old, recreate in and sometimes be sick in so we need to have good services available for everybody who lives here.

“It’s the remit of council to provide those services so we need good airports and boat ramps. There are hundreds of services that we provide through collecting rates.

“The challenge for us is how we socialise the collection and socialise the benefits of that.

“Council will review its rating strategy year by year and be responsive to the needs of our community.  This is, I think, a really good response to those needs.”

Cr Ben Buckley wanted to see a rate decrease.

“Unless we can bring this down somehow so there is an overall reduction in the rates, I’m afraid I can’t support it,” he said.

Cr Pelz moved and Cr Reeves seconded the motion to accept the revised Draft Budget with mayor, Cr Natalie O’Connell, Cr Dick Ellis, Cr Pelz, Cr Reeves and Cr Colin Toohey for and Cr Ben Buckley and Cr John White against.

Cr Jackson Roberts was absent.

The Draft Budget public submission process has recommenced with submissions open until Friday, June 7, at noon, with a committee of council meeting to consider submissions taking place on Tuesday, June 11 (rather than the originally advertised June 4).