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Council budget open for submissions

North Harcourt Road Reconstruction 2020

Council is inviting submissions to its 2020/2021 Proposed Budget, which outlines the resources to deliver more than 100 services, along with capital works program and a small number of new initiatives.

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Mount Alexander Shire Council has released its 2020/2021 Proposed Budget giving community members one month to provide feedback or make a submission.

The $45.9 million budget outlines the delivery of more than 100 council services, a small number of new initiatives and $11.74 million in capital works.

Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire Christine Henderson said the budget also includes a package of works to help the community and local businesses recover from the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“When we started to develop this budget last year we could never have foreseen the impact that COVID-19 would have on our community, the country and world,” said Mayor Henderson.

“We delayed the release of the budget to allow more time to consider the social and economic impacts of the pandemic and have incorporated some relief measures into our budget.

“Councillors and staff have worked hard to develop a budget that ensures we are able to continue to deliver essential services, maintain and improve our vital infrastructure, and prioritise support to help the community to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

“We encourage the community to read through the draft budget and make a submission if they feel as though we’ve left something out or if they strongly support particular priorities.”

The budget includes the resources necessary to manage and repair local roads, bridges and drains, collect rubbish and recycling, deliver maternal and child health programs, provide aged care and disability services, deliver a range of youth and early years programs, and maintain and improve play spaces, parks and gardens.

To support the impact of COVID-19 Council will increase its investment in tourism marketing and promotion, deliver mental health training for the community, waive a number of registrations and permits for some businesses, and develop an online platform to help promote and support the creative and artistic industries.

“As a small rural council we need to secure grants from state and federal governments to help us deliver projects and services for the community. We have been fortunate to receive more than $6.85 million of grants funding in the last year,” said Mayor Henderson.

“This includes a $4.5 million grant from the Victorian Government for the rejuvenation of the historic Maldon streetscape, which will begin later this year,” she said.

“We will continue to lobby and apply for further support for important projects for our community.”

The proposed budget has a deficit of $3.4 million. This is primarily due to $2.75 million of 2020/2021 grant funding being received in May 2020, earlier than anticipated. Had the payment been made in 2020/2021 the deficit would have been closer to $650,000.

Council is doing all that it can to support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and is choosing to make allowance in the budget for reduced income or additional expenditure as a result of the pandemic. It is expected the financial impact of the pandemic to be around $1 million, and this investment is needed now to help our community and businesses get through and bounce back from this difficult time.

The 2020/2021 budget proposes an increase to average rate income of two percent, in line with the State Government’s Fair Go Rates System.

“This will allow Council to continue to deliver our existing services at current levels. It means we do not have to make the difficult decision to cut services and will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of our organisation,” said Mayor Henderson.

“We understand that this has been a difficult time for many in our community. If you are having difficulty paying your rates I urge you to contact our Rates Team on 5471 1700.

“Council this week adopted a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy that provides a framework for financial relief to individuals and businesses who need assistance from the impacts of the pandemic.”

Kerbside bin collection charges will increase by an average of three per cent per property. This equates to about a $13 increase for small bins and $19 increase for larger bins.

“It is a challenging time to keep costs for rubbish and recycling down due to a general rise in the cost of waste management as a result of global recycling challenges, the expense of landfill cell rehabilitation and policy changes including an increase in the compulsory state government landfill levy,” said Mayor Henderson.

“Many of us are actively making a conscious effort to reduce the amount of waste we create so please contact our Customer Service Team if you would like to arrange a smaller bin which comes with a cost saving,” she said.

The Proposed Budget 2020/2021 is open for public comment until 5.00pm on Wednesday 15 July. It is available at the Have Your Say section of Council’s website at www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/HaveYourSay. Printed copies will be available for public inspection during office hours at the Civic Centre in Castlemaine from Monday 29 June or on weekends at the Market Building in Castlemaine. Precautions will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Submitters will have the opportunity to present to Council at a Special Meeting of Council on Tuesday 28 July.

Council will consider the budget for adoption on Tuesday 18 August.

Capital works highlights include:
- Works on stage one of Muckleford-Castlemaine Road upgrade.
- Works to improve footpaths and create a road crossing in the town centre of Chewton.
- A new pedestrian crossing on Barker Street, Castlemaine.
- An additional water truck to support unsealed road grading across the shire.
- Final stage of works to upgrade drainage in Saint Street in Castlemaine.
- Small town streetscape upgrades in Elphinstone, Newstead, Campbells Creek, Chewton, Elphinstone and Taradale over two years.
- Improvements to the Norwood Hill Recreation Reserve in Castlemaine.
- Minor works to improve accessibility at community facilities such as Baringhup Hall and renew recreation facilities in Guildford, Taradale and Castlemaine.
- Ongoing renewal of important community assets such as our road and bridge network, footpaths and drains.

New and continuing initiatives:
- Rejuvenation of the Maldon town centre in a two-year project to underground power lines in stage one and make the main streets more pedestrian-friendly in stage two.
- Continuation of highly valued, quality programs in aged and disability services through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and Victorian Government’s Home and Community Care Program.
- Support for community lunch programs in Maldon, Newstead and Castlemaine.
- Delivery of the FReeZA and Engage! programs for young people aged 12-25 years.
- Delivery of the supported playgroups program.
- Ongoing support for the LGBTQI and Indigenous communities.
- Implementation of the Gender Equity Bill as part of a state-wide pilot program.
- Further investment in street tree planting.
- Essential conservation works to the fountain and front entrance at Castlemaine Botanical Gardens as part of the conservation management plan.
- Working with the community to reduce emissions in response to our declaration of a climate emergency.

Key documents
Proposed budget summary
Proposed Budget 2020/2021

Image: Council will invest almost $3 million on roads in its Proposed Budget.

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