Shire rates up by five percent

Thirty-three million dollars will be allocated to projects and services across the Northern Grampians Shire and is the centrepiece of council's 2014-2015 Draft Budget released last night.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has agreed to a rate increase of five percent.

Northern Grampians Shire Council has agreed to a rate increase of five percent.

The rate revenue increase has been capped at five per cent to ensure the delivery of core services and targeted projects contained in the 2013-2017 Council Plan.

Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin said council was conscious of the cost of living pressures on residents and had done its best to limit rises to rates and charges.

"Putting together the annual budget is always a challenge. Rates are only one element of council's income and it's our job to find a balance between what the community wants and what it can afford," he said.

"The reality is that reducing rates and fees would lead to diminished services or lower standards. However, council has tried to minimise the pressures on ratepayers by taking a serious look at how we deliver services and how we can improve efficiency."

Cr Erwin said this year's draft budget placed a strong emphasis on providing infrastructure and services that support economic and community development.

"About $28.7 million of the $33 million budget will be spent locally, providing significant opportunities for our businesses and contractors," he said.

"With Northern Grampians' unemployment rate at an all-time low and the housing market buoyant, our focus is on supporting job creation and investment.

"We are also working on transformational projects that will have enduring positive impacts on our communities. It is vital that our towns continue to prosper, and projects like the Halls Gap and St Arnaud master plans and future planning for Great Western are just the start of great things to come."

Cr Erwin said other major investments included the completion of the long awaited Halls Gap Community and Tourism Hub and the implementation of a significant Land Development Strategy which will investigate realistic opportunities for residential, commercial and industrial development throughout the shire.

Chief Executive Officer Justine Linley said the budget would support council's long term planning.

"Last year was about reviewing and planning. This year is very much about getting on with work and getting the job done," she said.

"While it is important to live within your means, it is also important to invest for the future and build an environment where people are happy to live, work and visit."

Mrs Linley said all residents in the Northern Grampians Shire were encouraged to read and comment on the draft budget.

Copies are available at www.ngshire.vic.gov.au, or from council's customer service centres and Visitor Information Centres.

Comments in writing are welcome before June 18, 2014. They can be addressed to the CEO via PO Box 580, Stawell or ngshire@ngshire.vic.gov.au.

Draft Budget Highlights (2014-2015)

$9.7m for capital works: parks, recreational areas, buildings and drainage works.

$6.1m on roads and bridges.

$4.6 for children's services, aged care, recreation, leisure services and libraries.

$1.1m to attract and encourage new and existing businesses and tourism.

$1.8m on waste management and environmental objectives.

$1.0m on streetscape improvements in Stawell, St Arnaud, Great Western and Marnoo.

$1.4m on maintenance and improvement of the shire's parks, gardens and open spaces.

$1.0m on major projects like the St Arnaud Town and Civic Precinct Stage 1 and the Western Highway Heritage Precinct (subject to funding).

$1.0m on major plant and equipment to keep our streets and infrastructure assets maintained.

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