By Joshua Wells
CITY of Whittlesea councillors have clashed on the Proposed Annual Budget 2018/19 which was approved by councillors last week.
The City of Whittlesea is set to separate waste charges from their rates in a bid to combat the growing concern over the future of recycling in Australia – a concern for a number of councillors.
This option allows council ‘the option to increase the waste services charge by more than 2.25 per cent in future years if the actual cost charged’ by contractors is increased.
Councillor Lawrie Cox called the budget ‘a reasonable’ one.
“This budget is responsible, we need to look long term,” Cr Cox said.
But Cr Norm Kelly disagreed and raised his concerns about future waste charge increases which would not be restricted by the state government’s rate cap.
“I have some concerns about this budget… it is smoke and mirrors, when you look at the waste charges being separated,” he said.
“This could be a mass expense to families who cannot afford it. Ratepayers will be ripped. I am very disappointed.”
Cr Ricky Kirkham called a dissent motion against Mayor Kris Pavlidis after he believed he was not allowed to debate the alternate resolution tabled on the night.
Mayor Pavlidis had moved to implement the budget after discussions had taken place with no amendments to the alternate resolution tabled.
She consulted with senior officials at council who advised her to move on with the meeting.
The dissent motion was seconded by Cr Kelly but was ultimately defeated 6-4 with Cr Kirkham, Cr Kelly, Cr Alahna Desiato and Cr Caz Monteleone all voting for the motion.
Cr Mary Lalios was absent from the meeting.
Whittlesea Mayor Cr Kris Pavlidis said that the proposed total budget of $285.6 million included an operating budget of $196.7 million to deliver more than 100 services for the municipality.
It also includes an extensive $88.8 million capital works program for a range of local projects.
Mayor, Cr Pavlidis said the budget would provide a range of upgrades and benefits to the community.
“This budget provides for more than 90 projects including our continued investment in roads and footpaths, new buildings, upgrading ageing facilities, refurbishing libraries, upgrading sports grounds and constructing soccer pitches, tennis courts, pavilions, playgrounds and shared paths,” she said.
“I am confident this budget delivers for our community today, and enables us to invest in a more exciting and liveable municipality for tomorrow.
“One of the most anticipated projects is the $25 million redevelopment of Mill Park Leisure. There is $12 million allocated to this project in the 2018/19 budget. The complete rebuild will include the addition of new fully accessible pools and water play features, enlarged gym and fitness program areas, outdoor fitness, family play and BBQ areas.”
North Ward Councillor Tom Joseph and Deputy Mayor Emilia Sterjova both supported the budget which could bring key works to the north.
Cr Sterjova said she was elated to see Church Street, Whittlesea, allocated $160,000 for improved lighting, something the North Ward councillor has supported for more than a year.
“I am absolutely elated,” she said. “This is going to be such a big success for the community… in the past we have fought for the lighting and the community has constantly given me their overwhelming support for more lights.
“Not one trader told me they were against extra lighting so I think the lights will improve business in the area and traders will open later.”
Meanwhile, the Whittlesea Swim Centre will be given a refurbishment under the proposed budget.
Cr Joseph said it was a good step in the right direction toward a better aquatic centre.
“City of Whittlesea is known for the town of Whittlesea, so it is important we create facilities for the township,” he said.
“People have been crying out for an upgrade of their pool. This funding, for a new building, is a start… but we want to make it better and we have long term plans for this.”
City of Whittlesea residents are invited to submit comments on the proposed budget by 5pm, Friday, May 25.