Services for older people and new infrastructure will be a focus of the City of Whittlesea’s 2021-22 budget.
Council will spend $229 million to deliver more than 100 operating services and programs, including $12 million to provide services, programs and activities that will support older people to live independently in their homes, $9.9 million for family and children services, and $5.24 million for the regional library service.
As City of Whittlesea residents and businesses emerge from Melbourne’s two-week lockdown that forced hundreds lose their incomes, council will roll-over its $2 million COVID Community Recovery Fund from the previous year.
Youth services will be allocated $1.96 million, less than last year’s $2.31 million; there is $8.63 million for public health services and programs, a decrease from $8.8 million the previous year; while $4.4 million will go to traffic management programs, including school crossings and community education programs, less than the previous budget allocation of $5.06 million.
Council will invest $76 million into new and refurbished facilities, including a $2.79 million upgrade to McLeans Road Kindergarten in Bundoora; $2.11 million for the construction of Mernda Community Activity Centre; $3.43 million for construction of the Wollert East Community Centre; a $2.7 million redevelopment of Mill Park Basketball Stadium; and a $900,000 skate park in Whittlesea, all announced earlier this year.
Road projects to be undertaken include the $2 million reconstruction of Arthurs Creek road at Yan Yean; a $1 million construction of Sackville Street and Bridge Inn Road intersection; and $1 million to complete works on the Findon Road extension, which will connect Plenty Road in the east and the Hume Freeway in the west.
Parks, gardens and public open spaces will also receive a boost, with $2 million to upgrade Whittlesea Public Gardens, and $2 million to commence a masterplan that will turn the Quarry Hills Regional Park into a large public open space.
Chair administrator Lydia Wilson said the budget was financially sustainable.
“This year’s budget puts the City of Whittlesea in a strong fiscal position to manage future impacts of the pandemic and provide for the needs of our community,” she said.
“We understand it has been a difficult time for many in our community. This budget allows council to manage costs while ensuring we can continue to invest in infrastructure and services.
Council rates will also increase by 1.5 per cent, which complies with the State Government’s rate cap under the Fair Go Rating System.
“Rates and charges are council’s primary source of income and integral to funding the delivery of services and investment in the infrastructure development and renewal that supports our growing community,” Ms Wilson said.
Following a public exhibition period of 28 days, the budget received seven submissions from the community. Of the seven submissions, council agreed to finance four at a community hearing in May, adding a cost of roughly $305,000 to the budget.
The four submissions that were approved for financial support were $150,000 for the repairs of Creeds Farm Living and Learning Centre; $5000 to fund a one-off grant to the Epping Wollert Nepalese community equipment; $62,000 to support the Findon Pony Club’s re-establishment at a new site; and an extra $88,650 for Ziebell’s Farmhouse, $38,650 for the operation and $50,000 for a review of site opportunities and governance arrangements, on top of the $90,000 already allocated the farmhouse.
“[It] was extremely beneficial for us to be able to hear from submitters and for us to ask questions and hear the responses in person,” Ms Wilson said.
Council is budgeting for a full year operating surplus of $146.76 million in 2021-22.
The operating surplus is largely driven by revenue received from non-monetary developer contributions ($104.08 million), monetary developer contributions ($17.34 million) and capital grant income ($17.41 million) and must be used for future infrastructure investment.
It is also budgeting for a break-even cash position for the next financial year, meaning all the council cash in-flow for the year will be invested back out into the municipality.
To read more detail on the budget, visit www.whittlesea.vic.gov.au.