Media Releases 2011

Infrastructure-heavy budget to ensure healthy, connected community

06 April 2011

Infant swimming with parentsFinishing a $7.8 million upgrade of the Collingwood Leisure Centre, preparing for construction of the North Fitzroy Library and restoring a Richmond community facility are among the highlights of Yarra Council’s Proposed 2011/2012 Budget.

The proposed budget also provides for at least $1 million to be contributed into an existing reserve for the creation of an indoor sports stadium.

Yarra Mayor Alison Clarke said Council was continuing to invest in long-term infrastructure projects which would support the health and wellbeing of its growing community.

“There are 10,000 more residents living in Yarra today than there were a decade ago,” Cr Clarke said

“That 15% increase in our residential population has put pressure on our existing services,” she said.

“You can’t just plonk people in a community and not provide the services they need – such as libraries and leisure centres – to live healthy and fulfilled lives.

“Whether it is creating a larger, purpose-built library in North Fitzroy or expanding the Collingwood Leisure Centre so it can accommodate an extra 40,000 visits per year, these major projects will give everybody access to better services.”

Cr Clarke said the proposed budget included a $31.4 million capital works budget, with highlights being:

  • $4.18 million to complete the upgrade of the Collingwood Leisure Centre. Council is working towards reopening the expanded aquatic area in late 2011.

  • $1.85 million to restore the Collingwood Town Hall and precinct.  The heritage-listed town hall needs to be upgraded to provide modern office facilities for Council staff, and to improve community access to meeting places (including providing a lift so people with disabilities can get around inside the building).

  • $2.3 million for road re-sheeting and $1.8 million for footpath upgrades

  • $800,000 to prepare for the impending construction of the North Fitzroy Community Hub. Construction of the hub (which is to include a library, maternal and child health centre, multicultural meeting place and community space) is expected to begin in mid-2012.

  • $1.73 million to improve Yarra’s on-and-off-road bicycle network

  • $680,000 to create a new park by closing off a section of roadway in Oxford Street, Collingwood

  • $300,000 towards the restoration of the community facility at 49 Tudor Street, Richmond. Council has taken on board resident feedback received after it proposed selling this facility, and will instead upgrade the centre to make it suitable for community use. An additional $500,000 is proposed in the 2012/2013 capital works budget to finish the upgrade.

A contribution of $300,000 would be made towards the Yarra Energy Foundation, bringing Council’s contribution to the Foundation to $900,000.  Expected to be launched later this month, the Foundation will help drive the retrofitting of businesses and homes in Yarra to reduce carbon emissions.

Cr Clarke said the proposed capital works budget was less than last year’s projected $36 million, mainly due to last year’s budget including more external funding (such as a $3.5 million Federal Government grant for the Victoria Park redevelopment).

She said at least $1 million would be contributed into the Community Infrastructure Fund for the creation of an indoor sports stadium, adding to the $2.4 million reserved last year for this purpose.

If Council decides to sell Loughnan Hall, a Richmond community facility, the expected $1.4 million sale proceeds would also go into the fund. Depending upon the sale, $500,000 would be provided from the fund for the restoration of the nearby Hosie Street Community Centre. The initial $300,000 Tudor Street restoration works would be paid for from the fund, irrespective of whether Loughnan Hall was sold.

Depending upon the sale, up to $4 million could be reserved in the fund at the end of June 2012.

“We’re adding to the amount set aside for the indoor sports stadium, and hope other levels of government get on board as well, so we can build it sooner rather than later,” Cr Clarke said.

Cr Clarke said the proposed budget provided for a 4.9% increase in total rate revenue.  Once income from new properties and interest had been removed, the average increase for residential ratepayers would be 3.5%.  This translated into $47 extra for the average residential ratepayer whose property was valued at $650,000.

“We have tried to keep the rate increase as low as possible, while keeping in mind that some increase was necessary to fund expanded services,” Cr Clarke said.

“Our increase will be below 5% for the third year running, and is likely to be one of the lowest increases in the inner-city,” she said.

She said Council’s rebate for pensioners would be increased from $125 to $130, which would apply on top of the State Government rebate.  The State Government rebate may also be increased but it was $187.60 in 2010/2011.

“We have one of the highest – if not the highest – rebates in Victoria, and about 6% of our ratepayers are eligible for it,” Cr Clarke said.

She said revenue raised from fees and charges would increase by about 3% - in line with inflation – but concessional fees would be increased at a lower rate of 2.65%.

Under the proposed budget, Council would pay off its debt of $486,000 throughout the year to become debt-free by June 2012. However, the Council would still have a superannuation liability of about $2.1 million, which it intended to pay off in $300,000 annual instalments until it made a final larger pay out in 2015/2016.

Cr Clarke said Council was calling for community feedback on the proposed budget by Monday 9 May.  Yarra residents, businesses, property owners and other community members interested in finding out more about the budget can attend information sessions to be held on:

Thursday 28 April
Richmond Town Hall, 10am-11.30am

Wednesday 4 May
Fitzroy Town Hall , 7pm – 8pm

Council is expected to consider verbal and written submissions about the proposed budget at a Council meeting on Tuesday 17 May, ahead of considering the adoption of the budget at a Special Council meeting on Tuesday 7 June.


For media enquiries about this issue, please contact:
Ainslie Gowan
Coordinator - Communications
9205 5177 / 0400 933 700


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