Warrnambool ratepayers look set to be spared a rate rise above the state government-imposed rate cap but will probably still have to pay more.
But the proposed increase in the council's draft budget that was presented to Monday night's live-streamed meeting will not hit as hard as it might have with an $11 reduction in waste fees offsetting the increase.
The pandemic-hit budget will see average residential rates rise $23 to $2053 - a rise of 1.2 per cent - after the council opted not to impose a rise above the rate cap even though last year it was given the OK do so.
That average residential rate bill includes a two per cent rate rise of $29 and $6 increase to the municipal charge but that would be offset by an $11 saving on waste management charges.
The reduction in waste charges have been attributed to the introduction of FOGO and glass recycling bin trial which is set to be rolled out across the whole city.
Councillors on Monday night called on the community to read the budget and provide feedback so any changes could be made before it was brought back for adoption.
Despite the increase in rate charges, the council's overall revenue is expected to shrink next financial year from this year's forecast $86.6 million to $76.6 million.
The council is also forecasting an underlying deficit of $1.5 million next financial year due mainly to the reduction in operating income from impacted services.
With council-run facilities such as AquaZone still under lockdown, user-fee revenue is expected to fall by $3.4 million.
There is expected to be a 23 per cent fall in parking fine revenue from $552,000 to $425,000.
$1.9 million in stimulus was a substantial figure that would enable the council to react when restrictions are lifted.- Mayor Tony Herbert
The council said that in preparing the budget it was planning for a future of "unprecedented uncertainty and financial hardship".
The council will roll out $1.951 million in support for businesses and the community throughout next financial year in the wake of the pandemic.
Cr David Owen said to be able to find $1.9 million for business and community support was a great effort.
Mayor Tony Herbert said the $1.9 million in stimulus was a substantial figure that would enable the council to react when restrictions were lifted.
The council also unveiled what Cr Herbert described as a "smaller than usual" capital works program.
The $18.5 million capital works projects will require the council borrow $4.7 million and include: $3.8 million for road renewal, $11 million for Reid Oval, $2.9 million for Lake Pertobe, $1.3 million for the new library on the Tafe site and $1 million for its energy saving initiative.
Cr Peter Sycopoulis said he was pleased to see the borrowing allocation in the budget for the saleyards roof which was "long overdue".
Cr Kylie Gaston said it was time to get the saleyards roof done for both animal welfare and also an "important show of confidence" in the saleyards.
Cr Sue Cassidy said some people would like to see major projects stopped - such as the Reid Oval redevelopment, new library and Lake Pertobe works - but she said those projects were needed to help stimulate the economy so the city could get back on track as soon as possible.
"It's not the easiest budget to do with everything that's happening, the unknown of the future and will there be a second wave of COVID-19?" she said.
"There are projects that will not go forward now because funding has been directed into other areas, especially into helping community and business to get back on their feet."
Cr Cassidy said residents needed to remember there would be an end to the uncertain time, and we needed to have infrastructure built so others could enjoy our city and get back some of the losses.
"Council, like any business, must cut back and ride through it," she said.
Cr Herbert said councillors had been contacted by some members of the community about halting major projects and slashing spending.
However, he said other levels of government were calling out for projects to be fast-tracked in order to stimulate growth in the economy and maintain jobs.
Cr Herbert said the council had decided to be more proactive and positive in continuing to progress the major projects which would greatly benefit the city on the other side of the pandemic.
Warrnambool's caravan parks are expected to run at a $358,000 loss next financial year - a massive fall from the 2018-19 season where they brought in a profit of just over $1 million.
Off the back of a bumper summer season which saw revenue $175,000 ahead of predictions in February, caravan park profits are expected to drop to $674,000 this financial year after COVID-19 restrictions meant visitor numbers took a big hit over Easter.
Fees at the parks for camping and cabins are set to rise by up to 10 per cent with unpowered sites up by about $3 a night and cabins up by $5 to 15 per night.
The losses at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum are expected to grow as tourism continues to take a hit, this comes despite promising signs of a turnaround of fortunes revealed by the council in October last year.
The losses for Flagstaff Hill were expected to increase from $745,000 to $817,000 this financial year, and to grow further to an $836,000 loss next year.
The cost of staying at the Lighthouse Lodge at Flagstaff Hill is expected to drop by up to eight per cent as it tries to lure tourists to the city in a rebooted tourism industry.
Chief executive officer Peter Schneider said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions was starting to show in the council's March financial results where previous gains in parking, Flagstaff Hill and Lighthouse Theatre had been negated.
"AquaZone has seen a further deterioration of its position with the centre now closed," he said.
Many AquaZone charges are expected to rise by one to two per cent under the draft budget.
The cost of animal control is expected to increase next year from $488,000 to $517,000 and pet registration fees will also rise again.
An unsterilised dog or cat would rise $200 to $216, and a sterilised dog or cat would cost $72 - an extra $2.
Cr Cassidy said she was concerned the asset renewal backlog would blow out to $40 million because council could not direct as much money for the upgrade of paths, roads, drainage and playgrounds it needed because of the impact of COVID-19.
Cr Mike Neoh said it was an "exceptional year" for putting together a budget due to the impact of COVID-19.
Cr Robert Anderson congratulated council officers for the amount of work they had put in.
"It's not an easy document to put forward. It takes a lot of time and head-scratching," he said.
Cr Sycopoulis said that everyone knew the budget was not being adopted at Monday's meeting and was going out for public comment.
"We've really been thrown a curve ball here, the entire world has been thrown a curve ball with COVID-19," he said.
"We're all playing catch-up. It hasn't been easy.
"It certainly hasn't been easy from an officer's point of view, ducking and weaving constantly to try to balance the books."
He encouraged anyone who wanted to have input into the council budget to attend a virtual meeting on June 15.
Cr Owen said projects going ahead were important during difficult times.
"This budget has been worked over and scrutinised over and over again," he said.
Cr Herbert said it was not a normal budget. "It's quite the opposite really," he said.
He said the council would have a large reduction in income if the restrictions went for six months, in excess of $5 million.
"This is not the final draft and as we progress through these coming months it may need to be adjusted again to respond to the needs of our community," he said.
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