Flood protection initiatives, bridge replacements, a celebration for local businesses and significant investment in improving recreational reserve facilities shire-wide are some of the highlights of Mount Alexander Shire Council’s proposed budget for 2023/2024.
Other features include an increase in Christmas decorations and celebrations for the shire, a new climate initiative to off-set emissions, upgrades to the Frederick Street precinct in Castlemaine, and resources to continue to make local roads safer.
The proposed budget was presented to Council for review at its meeting on Tuesday 18 April, prior to being placed on public exhibition.
Of a planned total spend of $48.45 million for the financial year, $14.50 million is allocated to improve infrastructure, as well as investment to improve our community facilities.
Mount Alexander Shire Council’s Mayor, Councillor Rosie Annear, said the proposed budget was developed following extensive community input.
“As part of the budget process, community members have opportunities to provide submissions about what their priorities are. Our decisions around where to allocate funding have been informed by what we’ve heard from our community, and I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to put funding towards some of the suggested ideas and priority areas.
“The Newstead community told us we need to do more to keep their properties safe from flooding, and that’s what we’re doing. We’ve allocated funding to improve the flood levee in the township, as well as replace the flood levee gate, along with progressing levee construction works in Castlemaine and Campbells Creek.
“We’ve heard that residents want to see more Christmas decorations and celebrations during the festive season, and this financial year we’ve committed to doing more to spread Christmas cheer within our shire.
“Our community has told us how much they value our sporting facilities, so we’ve prioritised spending to upgrade and maintain them, as well as making sure that facilities suit everyone’s needs.
“On this, we’ll be constructing temporary all-gender change rooms at both Camp Reserve and Campbells Creek Recreation Reserve.
“These new facilities will help create a safe, respectful and equitable environment for all users, improving access for more people to get involved in local sport.
“We’ll also be constructing a much-needed new netball court at Campbells Creek Recreation Reserve. This is something that our sporting community has been strongly advocating for, for some time, and I’m incredibly pleased that we’re able to fund this project in this year’s budget.
“One of our projects from last year’s budget that we’ll be continuing to help develop is the construction of a new youth space in Taradale.
“This was an idea brought to us by young people from the town, and this financial year we’re aiming to start construction, which is really exciting, too!
“We’re also continuing to progress Council’s work on affordable housing solutions – a priority for all Councillors,” said Mayor Annear.
The proposed budget includes an increase to average rates income of 3.5%, in line with the rate cap set by the Victorian Government. Waste charges have been increased by 1.0%, to reflect the rising costs of waste management.
“Making decisions on rates and service charges is never easy, and Councillors have spent much time discussing, and thinking on, what is appropriate for our community and what is financially sustainable for the organisation”, said Mayor Annear.
“For most local governments, the reality of operating under rate-capping, with the cost of materials and services skyrocketing, and with increasing responsibilities and expectations from various levels of government, and the community, means that we do not have enough funds to do the work that everyone would like us to do.
“It also means that we’re having to make increasingly hard decisions when developing the budget – something we have wrestled with and take seriously.
“That said, we’ve developed a balanced budget, one that I’m proud to work with my fellow Councillors and staff to deliver.
“I encourage residents to read through our draft budget to see the areas where we’ll be focusing our investment over the next twelve months. I hope you’re able to appreciate all the good things we’re funding in the year ahead – big and small.
“You can also have a say on the budget priorities, either in support or, to suggest further ideas for consideration.”
Copies of the proposed budget 2023/2024 can be viewed at Castlemaine’s Civic Centre, or online at www.shape.mountalexander.vic.gov.au.
Feedback on the proposed budget can be made using the online survey at www.shape.mountalexander.vic.gov.au, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by post to: 2023/2024 Budget, Chief Executive Officer, Mount Alexander Shire Council, PO Box 185, Castlemaine VIC 3450.
Submissions must be in writing and lodged by 5.00pm on Wednesday 10 May 2023.
Submitters will have the opportunity to address their submissions at a Special Meeting of Council on Tuesday 23 May. Council will seek to adopt the budget at the June Council Meeting.
Some highlights of the capital works program include:
• A number of recreation projects including construction of additional changerooms and installation of sports lighting at the Bill Woodfull Recreation Reserve, creating a youth space at Taradale including a playground renewal, and a lighting upgrade at the Harcourt Recreation Reserve.
• Installation of temporary change facilities at Camp Reserve and the Campbells Creek Recreation Reserve, while we work to upgrade facilities at these sites over the next few years.
• Installation of new netball court at the Campbells Creek Recreation Reserve*
• Progressing multi-year projects including the Castlemaine and Campbells Creek levees, restoring the former Wesleyan Church in Chewton, and the Frederick Street upgrade.
• Replacement of two bridges – James Bridge on Myrtle Creek and Burgoyne Street Bridge at Vaughan over Fryers Creek*
• Continuation of annual renewal and replacement programs across a range of assets including community buildings, plant and machinery, swimming pools, road re-sheeting and resealing.
• Several minor projects, including the bell mouth sealing program, and for Newstead, construction of a storage shed at the recreation reserve.
• Investigation of installation of outdoor exercise equipment in Newstead and one other site across the shire.
• Start investigation and design for a section of the flood levee*, and replacing a flood gate, both at Newstead.
*Projects subject to external funding.
Council has been proactive and successful in sourcing grant income to help fund our capital works program. Council expects to receive $6.97 million from both the State and Federal governments for a number of projects, including round 4 of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.
New and continuing initiatives include:
Other new and continuing initiatives to help fulfil Council’s vision of ‘working together for a healthy, connected shire’ include:
• Increasing to the budget allocation to a number of tree management programs, to ensure best practice tree management is occurring and to mitigate potential risks associated with trees in public places.
• Introducing new budget allocations to:
- Implement Council’s Disability Action Plan (2022-2026), to improve accessibility and inclusion for people living with a disability.
- Implement strategies contained within Council’s Early Years Plan 2022-2026, which focuses on children aged 0-8 and their families.
• Delivering the bi-annual Mount Alexander Business Awards to encourage, promote, and celebrate business excellence within the shire.