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Council adopts 2020/2021 budget

Council will spend $2.95 million on roads around the shire.

Mount Alexander Shire Council has adopted a $45.9 million budget for the year ahead, outlining the resources required to deliver more than 100 council services, along with a small number of new initiatives and $11.74 million in capital works.

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Mount Alexander Shire Council has adopted a $45.9 million budget for the year ahead, outlining the resources required to deliver more than 100 council services, along with a small number of new initiatives and $11.74 million in capital works.

Council has included a range of projects in the budget to support the community to respond to the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The pandemic has had an enormous impact on our community and we’ve included some initiatives to assist the recovery process,” said Christine Henderson, Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire.

“We have increased our investment in tourism marketing and promotion so our shire continues to be a destination on people’s minds when they are once again able to travel.

“We are also excited about the online ‘Get Lost’ initiative that will help to promote our creative and artistic sector to the world,” said Cr Henderson.

Council will implement a Social and Economic Recovery Plan and has adopted a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy to support ratepayers and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

Mayor Henderson said Council had made allowance in the budget for reduced income and additional expenditure as a result of COVID-19.

“It’s hard to know the precise financial impact of the pandemic on our bottom line, but we expect it to be around $1 million. It’s important now that we do what we can to support our community and businesses recover from this difficult time,” said Cr Henderson.

Following community feedback on the proposed budget, Council committed an additional $10,000 towards weed management.

The budget includes an increase to the average rates income of 2 percent under the Victorian Government’s Fair Go Rates System. Kerbside bin collection charges will increase by an average of 3 percent per property, which is approximately a $13 increase for small bins and $19 increase for larger bins.

“The rise in the cost of waste management, global recycling challenges and the expense of landfill cell rehabilitation means it is difficult to keep costs down for rubbish and recycling. Costs are also impacted by policy changes including an increase in the compulsory state government landfill levy,” said Mayor Henderson.

“Unfortunately there is no easy or cheap solution to this,” she said.

The budget includes a $3.4 million deficit, which is primarily due to an early receipt of $2.75 million in grant funding in May 2020. Had the payment been made in this financial year the deficit would have been around $650,000, which is what Council has allocated on programs to respond to the impact of COVID-19. Council will fund the deficit through existing cash reserves.

“Councillors thought long and hard about the financial impacts of the budget. As it stands the budget will allow us to continue to deliver our existing services at current levels,” said Mayor Henderson.

“It also means we do not have to cut services and can ensure the long-term sustainability of our organisation,” she said.

Council will continue to deliver essential services to the community such as the collection of rubbish and recycling, delivery of youth and maternal and child health programs, provision of aged care and disability services, the library service and maintenance of the shire’s many parks, play spaces and gardens.

Council’s largest project for the year ahead is the delivery of the Maldon Streetscape Rejuvenation Project, which received $4.5 million from the State Government. The two-year project will see power lines placed underground and improvements made to business facades and the Maldon town centre.

“This is an enormous investment in Maldon and it is an exciting project to deliver in partnership with the community,” said Mayor Henderson.

“We will continue to seek grants from the State and Federal Governments to help us deliver services and projects for the benefit of our community.”

Mayor Henderson said the $11.74 million capital works program will deliver improvements throughout the shire.

“Our capital works projects maintain and improve infrastructure such as roads, footpaths, bridges and streetscapes. We are pleased to have many projects scattered right around the shire in this budget,” said Cr Henderson.

At the August meeting Council also adopted a Financial Hardship Policy, Revenue and Debt Collection Policy and Fee Waiver Policy. Council adopted a COVID-19 Financial Hardship Policy at their June meeting.

New and continuing initiatives:

  • 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 and weed management.
  • 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.

Capital works highlights include:

  • Stage one of an upgrade to Muckleford-Castlemaine Road.
  • The beginning of a two-year project to upgrade streetscapes in Elphinstone, Campbells Creek and Taradale.
  • A road crossing in the Chewton town centre and new pedestrian crossing on Barker Street in Castlemaine.
  • An additional water truck to support grading of unsealed roads.
  • Completion of the final stage of works to improve drainage along Saint Street in Castlemaine.
  • Improvements to accessibility at community facilities such as Baringhup Hall and renewal of recreation facilities in Guildford, Taradale and Castlemaine.
  • Revitalisation of the Norwood Hill Recreation Reserve in Castlemaine.
  • New bridges at Eagles Road in Harcourt and along Campbells Creek – Fryers Road.
  • Continuation of the renewal of important community assets such as our road and bridge network, footpaths and drains.

Image: Council will spend $2.95 million on roads around the shire.

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