Moyne Shire Council has voted through its 2022-23 budget five votes to one at a special meeting of council on Tuesday morning.
The budget includes $53.2 million in spending, headlined by a $17.9m capital works budget, with the lion's share being spent on repairing and maintaining the council's dilapidated road network.
Port Fairy was the big winner in spending terms, receiving $1.7m for the East Beach precinct, $80,000 for the Reardon Theatre, $91,000 for Belfast Aquatics, and $70,000 for outdoor exercise equipment.
Around the shire Hawkesdale netted $110,000 for new cricket nets, Macarthur received $30,000 for pool repairs and Wangoom got $60,000 to improve the local hall.
After missing out on state funding for its streetscape plan, Koroit received just $25,000 to spruce up the Blackwood Centre, which is used by council staff, while Mortlake didn't get anything.
The council recorded an $830,000 operating surplus, but a $560,000 underlying deficit.
The final budget was virtually unchanged from the draft version adopted at the council meeting on May 3, receiving only four submissions from members of the public.
Two of the submissions objected to a proposed dog park in Russell Clark Reserve, while one requested funding to re-stump the Reardon Theatre. The fourth submission asked about council income from the Mortlake South Wind Farm.
Council responded to the submissions by removing $80,000 for the planned dog park from the budget and including the Reardon Theatre re-stumping in its asset renewal budget.
Most of the councillors were happy to vote the budget through, but Cr James Purcell criticised the 1.75 per cent rate rise.
"I think it's well put together and I congratulate the team for doing it, they've put together an excellent budget... but I'll be foreshadowing that we don't have a rate increase. I think we (as a council) can afford it and there are many who are struggling at the moment," he said.
Cr Purcell also suggested his fellow councillors needed to brush up on their financial literacy.
"It may be worthwhile for councillors through the coming year to have a little bit of training in finances. Some of the terms that are being thrown around regarding operating surplus and underlying profit, I think it probably wouldn't do any harm to have a little bit of training," he said.
Cr Karen Foster asked Cr Purcell why he had waited until the last minute to raise the issue.
"I haven't heard you raise these concerns in the past... We've work-shopped this budget quite exhaustively, I'm just a little surprised," she said.
Cr Purcell said every time councillors discussed the budget in workshops there were "different items included".
Speaking to The Standard, Cr Purcell said "there needs to be a better way to make the rates more equitable".
"There are plenty of people here in Port Fairy who are on a fixed income and while their house may have doubled in value their income hasn't gone up," he said.
Cr Daniel Meade disagreed, calling the rate rise "fair and reasonable". The budget passed with Crs Meade, Smith, Foster, Gleeson and Doukas voting in favour and Cr Purcell voting against. Cr Lockett did not attend the meeting.
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