The front page of the Sentinel-Times today carries an unfortunate blooper! The ‘pointer’ box on top of the page says “Rates up by $1000 or more”. It should have said “Rates up by $100 or more”. Hopefully the information inside on pages 10 & 11 clarifies the situation. The shire’s budget is officially released at a meeting in Leongatha at 2pm tomorrow, Wednesday, March 25.

South Gippy shire takes 6.9% more

IT’S almost impossible to say how much more you’ll pay in rates and charges to the South Gippsland Shire Council this year.
However with the introduction of a green waste service costing an additional $85 a year, a 4.9 per cent increase in the general rate and a 2 per cent increase in the garbage charge; it’s almost certain you’ll pay more than the headline ‘rate increase’ of 4.9 per cent to be handed down by the council this Wednesday.
On top of that, homeowners will also have to shoulder more of the rate burden this year as the shire phases out the municipal charge and phases in a 30 per cent rate benefit for farmers.
In fact, if you own a $320,000 house in Leongatha you might be in for a shock when the rates notice hits the kitchen table in July.
Assuming the Fire Service Levy stays the same at $136.88, the bottom line on your rate notice could be up by almost $200 from $1947 to $2140.
Exactly how much more you pay depends on the CIV value of your house.
It might be more accurate to say that the shire will be collecting almost 6.9 per cent more in rates and charges from the community in the coming financial year, up by $2.465 million to a whopping $38.275 million.

Those that want to make comment on the ‘Proposed Annual Budget 2015-16’, much less bring about significant change, have precious little time to do so:
• March 25: Proposed budget submitted to council for approval
• March 31: Public notice advising intention to adopt budget
• March 31: Budget available for comment and inspection
• April 29: Submissions period closes
• May 20: Submissions hearing meeting
• June 10: Special council meeting to consider submissions
• June 24: Budget presented to council for adoption
• June 26: Copy of adopted budget to Minister
In handing down “a financially sustainable and responsible budget”, the Mayor Cr Jeannette Harding will seek to reassure the community that the council has listened to its suggestions and requests, including via the new on-line service ‘Our Say’, in framing its spending program.
“The community has encouraged Council to continually look for more productivity improvements and to this end, we’ve captured $5.8 million in savings across the Long Term Financial Plan and more improvements are planned for this year,” Cr Harding said.
Council has expressed its satisfaction that the rate increase has already been trimmed from the Long Term Financial Plan figure of 5.5 per cent to 4.9 per cent; an outcome achieved by reducing the ‘capital extensions’ program which funds new projects in the shire’s community parks such as adding BBQs, shelters and playgrounds.
“The new footpaths aspect of the extensions program has not been cut, however,” said CEO Tim Tamlin last week.
“But it is my intention that as soon as further efficiencies are found, we will be able to put this back into the budget,” he said.
Mr Tamlin said acknowledged that there was a lot of interest in the level of ‘employee costs’ which he said would be up by 3.6 per cent this year or $812,000 to $23.09 million despite a locked-in 4 per cent EBA increase.
He said two staff members would not be replaced, including a strategic planner, but three outdoor apprentices would be added, bringing them across from the group training organisation which had previously contracted to supply that labour.
Mr Tamlin said a planned review and restructure of staff would continue as planned but with no efficiency targets being set.
The CEO said while efficiency improvements were continuous at South Gippsland Shire he had a personal vision for IT enabled improvement right across the organisation, delivering efficiency benefits to the community.

Community requests included in the budget:
• Aquatic strategy review (focus on community ownership)
• Equestrian Centre business case $35,000
• Arts Policy review
• Coal Creek to reduce costs while increasing tourism
• Coastal Infrastructure Strategy
• Economic development investment ($50K) plus $30K for branding
• $500K extra for road maintenance re-sheets. Plus Roads to Recovery grant increased to $3.34m
• Great Southern Rail Trail marketing and signs (grant funded)
• Coast Guard support increased
• Footpath extension Jupiter Boulevard Venus Bay $65K
• Maintenance works on Venus Bay-Tarwin Lower bike path $6K
Also included in the shire’s Long Term Plan (2022-23) is provision for a $25 million new shire office, library and community centre requiring a $16 million loan but it’s by no means certain such a project will go ahead.
“There’s the added benefit of freeing up prime commercial land in the centre of the town if it went ahead,” said Mr Tamlin.

Advocacy by council will focus on gaining $1.6 million in Federal funding for the $5.3m Korumburra Integrated Children’s Centre.
Other advocacy efforts will be made to attract funding for the Corner Inlet Development Project, road alignments on the Black Spur (SGH at Koonwarra), Foster streetscape, Bair Street Leongatha, Korumburra town centre and stages two and three of the SG Splash development (gym, crèche and hydrotherapy pool) in Leongatha.