Recently I moved a motion at council which if passed would require council to identify all items within the 15 year budget that have not previously been approved of by council through a transparent, evidence-based process and then to include them only after debate if it was determined by council through the budget process that such items should be in the 15 year budget.
This motion was lost. These items therefore will remain hidden – or will they?
The real question I must ask is why the need for secrecy?
In my investigations into these matters since discovering the hidden $34 million back in March, which I was unsuccessful in having removed from this year’s budget, I have discovered that during the 2013-2014 budget there was indeed an additional $53 million (minimum) added into the 15-year budget compared to 2012-2013.
After six months of debate, the $34 million has finally been accepted as factual despite the best efforts of some high-powered figures to deny it and cast aspersions on the accuracy or otherwise of my calculations.
The officers have confirmed my calculations were correct and I have that in writing.
The $53 million figure can be seen easily enough and I will present a public report to the next council meeting showing this fact.
The amount is made up of un-needed infrastructure, a pile of cash, and too high a rate set into the future, which has the effect of gathering up more spare cash.
Council currently is debating next year’s budget.
I am prevented from discussing those topics of course but I can say that I will be representing the viewpoint that council should return those unrequired funds back to ratepayers by way of reduced rate rises going forwards.
It is my belief after doing much work on this matter that we can have a 4 per cent rate rise next year.
The fear is that despite my best endeavours the effective 7 per cent rate rises will continue.
I am still concerned that some councillors appear to be unable to say no to any expenditure placed before them by officers.
Last week I was abused by the former mayor who told me I was just ignorant of the budget last year and that other councillors knew the additional funds were placed into the 15-year budget.
Whilst I readily accept and admit I missed that last year, in my defence I have to say that the officers did not include the $34 million in the confidential document we received as part of the budget process called “Amendments to the 15 Year Budget” and so I am not sure how I or any other councillor could have known about it at the time.
Having said that, I am staggered that a councillor could have let through an effective rise in expenditure over the 15 years of 15 per cent of the total budget without any discussion. Why? Because to add that much expenditure would mean rates would have to rise by 15 per cent to cover it.
Who wants a 15 per cent rate rise, even if it is spread over the early years within that timeframe? And for what reason? To have a pile of spare cash sometime 15 years from now!
This is hardly the way to run a household budget let alone one of $50+ million for council.
It is my belief that starting two years ago we have had rate rises of 2 to 3 per cent higher than was really needed and that means next year if we get the same sort of rate rise we will be paying 9 per cent per year more than should have been the case, in my humble opinion.
The year after, if nothing changes, I would expect us all to be paying 12 per cent per year; 15 per cent rate rises spread over five years is harder to spot compared to a one off 15 per cent rise – but works out to be just as painful to the ratepayers over the long run.
If this sort of stuff makes you mad as it does me, get onto the new council initiative called MySay where you can start your own input into the budget process.
If you would rather have that money returned, just put it up as an option and see if others vote it through as an idea that council should take on board.
Similarly, if you want the ongoing 7 per cent rate rises you could ask for that too and help to decide what council spends the money on!
Finally, I assure ratepayers that I will continue to go into bat for them and I will identify these issues going forwards at the appropriate time.
Cr Don Hill, Tarwin Valley Ward.
Future costs remain hidden