AFTER enduring two successive savage rises, Warrnambool ratepayers will have a more conservative 4.5 per cent increase next financial year under the city council’s draft budget.
It will be the smallest increase in rates and charges for a decade and no big-ticket capital works projects will be undertaken apart from major infrastructure to handle expanding residential and industrial areas.
A recent revaluation of properties will cause a fluctuation in how the overall increase translates to individual bills.
Last night, councillors released the proposed budget to deliver $57.6 million of day-to-day services for the community, raise $27.49m from rates and embark on a $16.1m capital works program.
It will borrow $2.5m and aims to achieve an underlying surplus of $2.04m.
Ratepayers contribution to these services has been capped at $16.5m, representing 28.6 per cent of the cost, with the balance from user fees and government grants.
Submissions from the public can be made by June 6. Council will then respond and hopes to have its final budget ready for approval by June 25.
Fees for most services will rise slightly across the board with bigger rises particularly in kindergarten fees, the Archie Graham Community Centre hydrotherapy pool and venue hire at the Lighthouse Theatre. One of the few cuts in fees is for yearly membership at Flagstaff Hill.
The federal government’s new carbon tax has been loosely factored in with council’s power costs estimated to rise more than $300,000 on top of the annual $2m utilities bills.
City chief executive Bruce Anson described it as a cautious budget coming after the current year’s 6.9 per cent rate rise and a similar figure in 2010-11.
“The council recognises there are difficult economic times nationally, but this city is still growing strongly and has low unemployment,” he said.
“We are not seeing significant drops in property values that have been evident in some other areas.
“In most regional cities, up to 50 per cent of the income comes from rates, but we sit at about 30 per cent.”
Mr Anson said the draft budget had come after extensive discussions with community representatives and was based on the council’s four-year plan strategy which has recently been revised.
“We have trimmed some areas, but not lowered the service delivery standards,” he said.
“Warrnambool is one of the broadest municipal service delivery providers in the state with more than 120 services.
“With a 600-plus annual population growth there is a need to increase services by 10 per cent every five years.”
Road construction and drainage works for the expanding housing precincts along Aberline Road and the proposed industrial estate off Horne Road will soak up about $5m of the capital works allocation.
Another $2.8m will be spent on local roads including car parks, safety, street lights and $75,000 for the Ziegler Parade bridge.
A new air handling unit at AquaZone will cost $500,000 and $230,000 will be spent on refurbishments to the civic centre.
More than $960,000 has been allocated for the council’s vehicle fleet and $750,000 for upgrading information technology equipment, $300,000 on implementing city centre structure plan improvements and $30,000 to Surfside Holiday Park.
Public toilet access in the southern end of the CBD is likely to be improved with a $130,000 budget provision.
The budget earmarks $100,000 as council’s contribution to proposed $495,000 improvements to Reid Oval sports centre.
Mr Anson another $100,000 would come from state government with the balance from user groups.
“We are awaiting confirmation of stakeholder contributions before work can begin,” he said.