Rates will likely increase by two per cent this financial year for Northern Grampians residents, but relief could be at hand for farmers in 12 months' time.
The council's draft budget of 2020-21 is out for public comment for the next 28 days.
"The rate increase is the maximum allowable increase provided to us by the state government," he said.
"We don't believe it's quite enough to balance it up because the community is always wanting a lot of services which cost a lot of money, but we are always doing our best to fit within that requirement.
"We will be looking next year at having a look at the farming differential. Some councillors are of the opinion it is a little bit high. It's mainly controlled by the increase in valuations, which is out of our control, and land around here has been going up in the last four or five years."
The council is proposing a three per cent reduction to 50 per cent of general rates in 2021-22. A general rate of 0.6129 per cent will apply to general properties, and a farm rate of 0.2881 per cent if the current draft budget is ultimately adopted.
The draft budget also mentions work will begin on an Agricultural Engagement Strategy in the next 12 months. Cr Emerson said the purpose was to have more collaboration between the council and farming communities, which had a major impact on the region's economy.
"We believe we've got to put in a little bit more time and effort in making sure we get things right from their point of view," he said. "We hope to get farming opinion around export, imports, new bridges and roads for heavy vehicles... there are a multitude of things we need to have conversations with our agricultural community on. We started those discussions a couple of years ago, we just haven't ad a policy to cover it."
The council estimates there were 455 businesses in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry in the municipality in 2018.
St Arnaud Victorian Farmers Federation chairman Colin Coates welcomed the idea.
He said the issues facing farmers in the region were common to farmers across Victoria, such as maintaining gravel roads, building permits and rethinking the way farming properties were rated.
"We've been hammering this issue for several years, so it's good if they are going to accommodate more communication and a change of attitude," he said.
Other initiatives mentioned in the 2020/21 draft budget include:
- The Future Story of St Arnaud Community Visioning projects .
- Stawell Sports and Aquatic Centre
- Great Western Future Plan
- Engage Youth Leadership program
- Early Years projects to support families, social inclusion and child development
- Arts and Culture program
- A $250,000 financial hardship policy created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including rate interest and fee waivers