City calls for draft budget feedback

RATEPAYERS have been urged to provide feedback on the Warrnambool City Council’s draft budget, with debate expected to centre on its proposed 5.5 per cent rate rise.

Expenses incurred by entertainment and leisure facilities have borne the brunt of criticism with Peter Sycopoulis and several other councillors calling for a reassessment of how some of the council’s key infrastructure is managed.

The draft budget was released on Monday evening and included $2.7 million to spruce up the city centre and $3.4 million to overhaul the Simpson Street drainage system, which is in desperate need of repair work.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said the budget period was an important opportunity for ratepayers to take part in a wider discussion about how the municipality operates.

He said a number of community groups had taken the opportunity in the past few years to raise funding issues.

“With the proposed infrastructure fund, which represents 0.5 per cent of the rate increase, we will have the funds available for smaller projects around the city that might have been overlooked previously,” Cr Neoh said.

“Making a submission can be a way of bringing a particular project to the attention of councillors.”

Cr Peter Hulin said residents should voice their opposition to the 5.5 per cent rate increase during the submission period.

“I’ve been putting ideas out there for years about how we can stop these large rate rises,” Cr Hulin said.

“There are ways of avoiding big rate rises, smarter ways of running our council services, but it seems that some people don’t want change.”

Submissions can be made through the council website or lodged at the municipal offices in Liebig Street before the afternoon of Wednesday, June 11.

Residents making submissions can request to be heard at a special council meeting on Thursday, June 19. 

The original meeting was scheduled for June 16, but altered due to a clash with a cross-municipal conference then.

City Council chief executive Bruce Anson said the submission process was a key part of how councillors assessed the draft budget.

“It’s an opportunity for residents if they wish to have a look through the budget and then put their view across,” Mr Anson said.

“With the website, it makes it easier to view the draft budget but there’ll always be the option of coming into the council office and looking at it directly.”

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