THE rising cost of living and current economic climate were among key considerations in the City of Whittlesea’s draft budget and draft community action plan 2023-24.

The plans aim to strike a balance between delivering essential services and projects and a financially sustainable future were endorsed for community consultation at a council meeting on March 21.

Chair administrator Lydia Wilson said the draft budget had been carefully considered to best address the current economic climate.

“The past few years have been challenging for our community with the pandemic and now cost of living pressure,” she said.

“In light of this we have developed this draft budget with a focus on delivering on the ground funding that can make an immediate impact including boosts to grants and more funds for seniors groups.

“We’ve also prioritised spending on open space in response to community feedback on maintenance of parks and local streets.”

The $372.69 million draft budget includes an operating budget of $294.85 million and a focused capital works program of $77.83 million, with a proposal that council continues to subsidise waste charges, specifically the State Government Landfill Levy.

The budget also proposes an average rate increase of 3.5 per cent in 2023-24, in line with the rate cap set by the State Government despite inflation rising by 7.8 per cent in the past 12 months.

Other highlights of the draft budget include opening libraries in Mernda and Wollert, increased community grant funding, launching a

Whittlesea Services Hub in Whittlesea, and introducing a customer portal to streamline online interactions with council.

“We have been subsidising the cost of providing the kerbside waste collection for many years and despite adding a new service, glass recycling, our waste charges continue to remain significantly less than other councils who are facing similar cost pressures,” Ms Wilson said.

“To continue to be financially responsible and to ensure we can continue to meet the growing demands of our community for infrastructure and services, the City of Whittlesea is aiming to move towards a zero-subsidy model by 2025-26; subject to the easing of economic pressures on our community.”

Council’s draft community action plan includes 56 priority actions in addition to the ongoing service delivery across the sub-headings of Connected Community, Strong Local Economy, Sustainable Environment, Liveable Neighbourhoods and a High Performing Organisation – all supporting the Whittlesea 2040 vision of A Place of All.

Ms Wilson said the draft budget and draft action plan were shaped by significant community feedback gathered last year.

“In August and September last year we asked the community to help identify their priorities,” she said.

“We’ve used this and feedback from our ongoing conversations with the community to help us shape these important documents.

“Now we are inviting further feedback on the draft documents.”

Feedback or submissions can be made from tomorrow via the Engage Whittlesea website at engage.whittlesea.vic.gov.au or by emailing engagement@whittlesea.vic.gov.au or calling 9217 2170. Submissions close at 5pm on April 25.

An Advisory Committee of Council will meet to consider community feedback on June 1 before the final budget 2023-24, and community action plan 2023-24 will be considered for endorsement at a council meeting on June 27.