Shire formally adopts budget

NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council formally adopted its budget without change, describing the process as a real balancing act.

Cr Murray Emerson described the budget as a real balancing act.

Cr Murray Emerson described the budget as a real balancing act.

Council met on Monday night in Stawell to consider adopting the budget documents, which had been on public display since the draft budget was released on May 12.

Cr Karen Hyslop moved the recommendation that council adopt the budget as prepared and confirm the rate increase of five percent.

"I do think this is a fair rate increase," Cr Hyslop said.

"We have had a lot of discussion about rates and there are a lot of services that this council does run.

"I don't think people realise the number of services that council runs.

"This budget covers a lot of different services provided by the shire and overall, I think it is a very fair budget."

Cr Murray Emerson said the annual budget was the biggest undertaking by council each year.

"This is my second budget on council and the challenges haven't been any easier," Cr Emerson said.

"We have a budget of $33 million and unfortunately, we are having trouble fitting all of our services into this $33 million.

"We started on this year's budget about this time last year and have worked on it for the full 12 months. We are always talking about what we can do in regards to sharing the money around that we have available to us.

"From April until now, it gets even more intense where we are trying to do the best we can for everyone in the community.

"This is a good budget and I think we should be congratulated for keeping our rate increase to five percent when other shires are well in excess of that.

"Five percent is always too much, but I think we have done as good a job as we could under the circumstances."

Cr Wayne Rice said he asked members of the gallery to take away from the meeting, an understanding of how difficult it is to try and balance the demands of the community, versus the amount of money that is available.

He mentioned recent newspaper reports that featured comments from former Premier Jeff Kennett, stating that councils are expected to continue to provide services, even though funding from both state and federal governments was continually being cut.

"I know it has been a very upsetting thing to have happen to people in recent times when council has reviewed its services. It's a case of have to, to make the budget fit.

"This is going to continue into the future. We will have to continue to review our services. It is very important that the community takes an interest in the budget and sees just what it is that we are providing to the community.

"These services are expected by the community, but they come at a cost and they have to be paid for by somebody. We have to come up with an answer sometimes, as to whether we continue delivering these services or not.

"The hardest part of a council life is to go through a budget and particularly from a councillor's point of view, quite often we are sitting here hearing things that we don't know in depth detail about and we try and make a decision on it.

"It's not simple, but given the word that is coming out of Canberra and coming out of Melbourne, coming out of the upcoming state election, particularly if the Labor Party does win and caps council rates, that is really going to hurt councils in the future.

"So the services we looked at this year, we are going to look at even harder in the future.

"Already the federal government has capped the Financial Assistance Grants for the next three years. That's money we will miss out on and money we need. If we can't get that money from the federal government, then we will have to put cost cutting measures in place somewhere."

Mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, said he believed the budget to be a fair budget, to take the council through the next 12 months.

"It never gets any easier at budget time," Cr Erwin said.

"There are always challenges. We are a small council and we try to drive our dollars as far as we possibly can."

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