by Ian Blyth
ROADS and a return to an operating surplus underpin the 2018-2019 Mitchell Shire Council draft budget.
With roads one of the community’s top priorities, the draft budget includes $7.07 million for road maintenance and road projects – an increase of $1.22 million from the previous budget.
Road improvement projects valued at $3.82 million will be the main component along with $60.91 million to deliver services and operations – however not all councillors agree with the cash carve up.
Cr Annie Goble welcomed the focus on roads and footpaths as she moved that the draft budget be adopted for public exhibition.
“It is pleasing to see the allocations for roads and footpaths – clearly we have listened to the community and included what our residents see as priority items,” Cr Goble said.
However Cr David Lowe was quick to disagree stating that he did not like the budget and it was created badly.
“We did not sit down together, it was created ward by ward and there are priorities that i had no say in determining,” Cr Lowe said.
“We cannot ignore the inequity between the wards. The South Ward will pay 40 per cent of the rates with a 20 per cent return – all the critical expenditure is in the north,” he added.
Cr Rob Eldridge agreed saying that the budget was based on renewal of assets.
“If you don’t have any assets then you won’t get any money. I am for equity and the budget does not deliver that,” Cr Eldridge said.
“I don’t agree with Cr Eldridge’s asset comments – roads and footpaths are what the community has been asking for and the budget has delivered in those areas,” Cr David Atkinson said.
As the debate swung very much to a south versus north discussion, Cr Bill Chisholm also leapt to its defence saying that budgets are historically a hard thing to agree on.
“Like Cr Goble, I welcome the inclusion of roads and it is also significant that our small towns are recognised – this has not happened in the past,” Cr Chisholm said.
Cr Goble closed the debate saying that she was ‘stunned’ by the three South Ward councillors’ comments.
“I am shocked and stunned that the three South Ward councillors oppose the budget. It looks like grandstanding to me and I am saddened by it,” Cr Goble said.
The matter was then put to the vote with Councillors Chisholm, Atkinson, Stevens, Goble, Atkinson and Humm voting for and Councillors Lowe, Eldridge and Cornish voting against.
When announcing the draft budget community consultation sessions, Mayor Cr Rhonda Sanderson, said that it was difficult to prioritise projects across the shire considering the needs of new communities, growth areas, urban areas, smaller townships and rural areas.
“We’ve been mindful of these needs across the municipality in preparing the budget. We’ve also considered the substantial funding investment we’ve had in recent years through programs like the Growing Suburbs Fund which has helped deliver more than $18 million in projects in Beveridge, Wallan, Kilmore and Broadford in the last three years,” Cr Sanderson said.
Session will be held in Wallan on Tuesday, May 1 at 7pm at the Family and Children’s Centre. Kilmore on Thursday, May 3 at 7pm in the John Taylor Room and in Seymour on Monday, April 30 at 7pm in the Chittick Park Community Place.
There will also be a councillor consultation forum in Pyalong on Wednesday, May 9 from 7pm at the Pyalong Recreation Reserve Supper Room Hall.
Copies of the draft Budget are available at www.engagingmitchellshire.com or in hard copy at Council’s Customer and Library Service Centres in Broadford, Kilmore, Seymour or Wallan.
Submissions can be made online or in writing and need to be received by 5pm on Wednesday 23 May.