Why Warrnambool rates couldn't have been frozen this year has been called into question again by a councillor after the city posted a strong financial performance for the year.
The council handed down its annual report and financial statement at Monday's meeting, but Cr Ben Blain used the opportunity to highlight what he indicated was the city's ability to pass on financial relief to ratepayers - something it hasn't followed the lead of neighbouring councils on during the 18 months of the pandemic.
The council achieved an accounting surplus of $12.53 million with an actual underlying surplus of $2.4 million.
"According to the report, the council has even managed to repay $1.53 million in debt," Cr Blain said.
He said that while the council had suspended services to the community because of the lockdowns, the numbers showed a positive result on the council's bottom line.
"I was aware during the budget discussions that there was predicted to be a greater surplus than expected according to the budget forecast, and it looks like council has achieved this," Cr Blain said.
"It does make we wonder when council showed such a strong result why we couldn't offer a rates freeze to the Warrnambool community.
"I think when council suspends services because of the lockdowns we could have been looking at different opportunities in which we could have offered relief to our community."
Cr Blain said it was interesting to see how well the council had performed over the past financial year.
"What a different year this has been for council operating under the numerous lockdowns of the pandemic," he said.
While acknowledging the council would soon be taking out loans for the major projects such as Reid Oval and the new library at TAFE, Cr Blain said the council was in a strong position.
"I wouldn't call this results a mess, this result shows a strong revenue base for council, especially in these trying times," he said.
"I think this shows council we had the revenue we need, and we need to be focusing on how we make sure that we use ratepayers money in the most effective way to deliver as much as possible for Warrnambool."
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Warrnambool Ratepayers Association president Joan Kelson also questioned why rates couldn't have been frozen this year.
"I'm a little disappointed obviously now that the council have got a $2.4 million surplus why we had to put rates up," Mrs Kelson said.
She said in March the council had a $980,000 surplus and they were projecting a $1.6 million surplus, but that now has gone to $2.4 million.
"I'm not saying it's bad to have a surplus, but your budget is there to be spent," Mrs Kelson said.
It does make we wonder when council showed such a strong result why we couldn't offer a rates freeze to the Warrnambool community.- Cr Ben Blain
She said ratepayers have had to put their hand in their pockets for another rate rise, and were offered no relief through COVID while some other councils froze rates.
"I just find that very disappointing when we are sitting there with a $2.4 million excess that $600,000 of that could have perhaps spared people from a rate rise," Mrs Kelson said.
Councillors say at public meetings that the council is in severe financial difficulties, but where do they come up with that?, Mrs Kelson said.
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