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Draft Budget released for community consultation

6 April 2017

Yarra Council is seeking community feedback on its draft 2017-18 budget with many opportunities for people to have their say from 6 April until the extended closing date of 11 May.

The draft budget details the resources required over the next year to fund the large range of high quality services Yarra Council provides to its community.

It includes details of proposed capital works funding to improve and renew Yarra’s much loved parks and open spaces, community buildings, roads and cycling paths and local streetscapes.

It also includes a substantial $2m community grants program – one of the largest programs of its kind in Victorian local government, reflecting Yarra’s deep commitment to its grassroots community groups and volunteers.

The draft budget proposes a general rate increase of 2% in line with the State Government’s Fair Go Rates System which has capped rate increases by Victorian Councils. 

Proposed separate waste service charge

The draft budget also proposes to introduce a separate waste service charge as a flat fee per property based on bin size. This would bring Yarra in line with 73 other Victorian Councils who currently have a separate waste service charge in some form.

Council is considering this option because the cost to deliver waste services will increase by up to 6.5% per year (triple the State Government’s rate cap of 2%), leading to a projected $20m shortfall over the next decade. In addition to this Council has significant budgetary challenges associated with a growing population, ageing infrastructure, rate capping, reduced grants, cost shifting and the need to repay debt and build cash reserves in the short to medium term.

The proposal would enable Council to reallocate the $8.5 million previously collected for waste services from within general rates, to improving Council’s finances so it is better placed to respond to emerging community priorities and external constraints. Among the options open to Council would be to allocate this money to reducing debt and/or growing cash reserves which would improve Council’s liquidity immediately and provide opportunities in the future to be innovative and responsive.

If however Council chooses not to implement the waste service charge it will need to look at other ways to address the financial challenges. This could result in Council having to reduce services, service levels and/or capital expenditure.

Support for pensioners and health care card holders

Yarra’s pensioners will continue to receive extra support through Council’s own general rate rebate of $178.80 (increased by 2% from last year and among the highest of all 79 Victoria Councils). This is on top of the State Government’s annual rate rebate for pensioners.

Council is also proposing a 50% rebate of the waste service charge for pensioners and healthcare card holders in the first year, to be reviewed annually.

Notable highlights of the draft budget

The draft budget provides funding to deliver hundreds of everyday high quality services and programs across family, youth and children’s services, aged and disability services, parks and open space, recreation, libraries, leisure, arts and culture, parking, local laws and compliance, planning and place-making, building and construction management, city works and infrastructure and much more.

In addition to this, the draft budget proposes $500,000 to continue the Wellington Street Copenhagen lane from Gipps to Johnston streets (to be funded across two years); $450,000 for a new pocket park on the corner of Charles and Mollison streets in Abbotsford; and $240,000 for streetscape improvements to Victoria Street which adds to a $200,000 State Government grant which Council successfully advocated for.

It also includes $100,000 support for Cubbies Adventure Playground which provides activities for children on the Atherton Gardens Housing Estate and $102,000 towards a Stolen Generations Marker, which will pay tribute to the struggles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families from the Stolen Generations. 

Continuing its ongoing commitment to being a leading sustainable city, the draft budget proposes $141,000 to trial an innovative solution for food waste recycling, $60,000 for the bicycle network program, $28,000 for more bicycle parking, $79,000 for a pedestrian safety program and $40,000 to plan for the implementation of Yarra’s first Urban Forest Strategy. There’s also $150,000 for a roads spot safety program.

Council has also allocated funds to implement a new Developer Contribution Plan which will have significant long term community benefit.

Budget at a glance

  • $174m total operating expenditure budget
  • $30m for new capital projects and other new initiatives
  • $2m for community grants and contributions
  • 2% increase in general rates, in line with the State Government’s Fair Go Rates System
  • 2% per cent increase in the City’s rate rebate for pensioners (from $175 to $178.50 per annum).

Capital works highlights

  • $8.4m road renewals
  • $6.8m community building renewals
  • $3.95m for parks, playgrounds open space and streetscapes renewals
  • $4.6m plant and equipment renewals including technology, library materials and scheduled replacement of Council’s fleet.
  • $0.84m for laneways renewal including bluestone laneway reconstructions

How was the draft budget developed?

This is the first budget of the new Council. It has been developed in tandem with the new draft Council Plan 2017-21 and aligns closely with Yarra’s key objectives for the next four years.

Councillors have met on numerous occasions since they were elected last October to consider community feedback received via the council plan engagement and to consider priorities for the next 12 months and beyond. They took into consideration results of recent community surveys, current demographic data and long term financial modelling.

From here they have had to balance the needs and aspirations of their community with the need to ensure the financial sustainability of Council so that it can continue to provide high quality services to the community.

Balancing the needs of our community through the budget is not always an easy task, but it does serve as a welcome reminder of the important work Council does to enhance the lives of all people in our community.

To read the full Draft Annual Budget 2017-18 and learn how to make a submission, visit http://www.yoursayyarra.com.au/shape-yarra-future

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