Northern Grampians Shire Council's 2019-20 budget was passed at a meeting at St Arnaud on Monday, but just barely.
The motion to adopt the budget, which had not changed since its draft form was released in May, narrowly passed, with mayor Kevin Erwin and councillors Tony Driscoll, Merrilee Reid and Karen Hyslop voting in favour to adopt it.
Cr Hyslop moved the motion and said five community members provided feedback about the draft budget.
"I'd like to thank those in the community who took an interest in viewing both documents and then providing comment," Cr Erwin said.
"We now look forward to delivering the budget and continue to be guided by our revised council plan."
Cr Driscoll said he was happy with the budget council put together.
"To produce a budget is an arduous process but we have done our best to be fair and equitable in what is a challenging model," he said.
"There are exciting things on the horizon for this council so hopefully this budget can continue to help us move forward."
Crs Jason Hosemans, Murray Emerson and Rob Haswell voted against the budget motion.
Cr Hosemans referenced rates as a key motive behind his decision to vote against the adoption of the budget.
"Our rates are too high, they have been a constant cause for concern," he said.
"They are much higher than our metropolitan counterparts, with house prices out this way worth half compared to a similar house in Melbourne.
"The only way for this system to be fair is to have a uniform rate system across the state. Here in rural and regional Victoria we have been treated as second class citizens far too often."
Cr Hosemans also referenced the disparity between infrastructure spending in rural areas, taking aim at state and federal governments.
"25 per cent of this state's population lives in rural areas yet we only get about 4 per cent of infrastructure spending. It is not fair or justifiable at all," he said.
"Both the state and federal governments seem unwilling to do anything about it.
"In this budget we have about a $4 million shortfall in infrastructure spending and sooner or later it will catch up with us. The shire's infrastructure will be falling apart around our ears.
"And that shortfall is difficult to be covered by us. We would have to raise rates by about 25 per cent which wouldn't go down well at all."
Cr Hosemans also gave a third reason for voting against the motion, making mention to the farmers differential discount.
"I was hoping to have the discount drop from 53 to 50 per cent, which isn't a huge amount, just something that could start the process of what is a big issue," he said.
"I think 53 per cent is exorbitant. It jumped from 35 to 53 per cent at the last budget which was a huge jump. I think it is unfair on other ratepayers."
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Cr Hosemans attempted to move an amendment to the motion to reduce the discount but Cr Erwin did not allow it.
The south-west ward councillor said while he knew the budget would pass, he wanted to make his grievances about the current situation heard.
"People in rural areas are being treated unfairly. We are effectively being taxed extra for living out here and get less in return from levels above us," Cr Hosemans said.
"We currently can't pass a budget until approved by the state government, like all councils. It is up to them to set a uniform rate in the dollar so everyone is treated equally across the state."
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