This letter sets out my comments on the Draft 2015-2016 Bass Coast Shire Council Budget, and dispels the myth that there have been no submissions made to the budget.
I have made previous written and verbal presentations to the council in March and April of this year on the content of the Budget and the Long Term Financial Plan.
At the time of writing I have not had any response from councillors or executives of council to my submissions.
It is therefore unknown to me if any of my previous comments have been considered and adopted by council in this latest Draft Budget.
Based on a reading of the Draft Budget, most of my earlier comments and suggestions still apply.
There is too little spent on capital works and too much spent on administration.
The Draft Budget and its forecasts for future years still does not address the importance of having a sustainable long term allocation of rate funds and government grants into the creation and maintenance of assets in the shire.
This year’s expenditure is an increase over last year and at $17 million is close to target, but it is clearly a “one-off” supported by a large government grant of more than $6 million that will not be repeated in future years.
Forward estimates show spending drops away to $13 million, so the outlook for a sustainable capital works program in future years is grim.
In some cases, such as parks and open spaces, it is even “grimmer” with council proposing to cease spending on new assets altogether after this year.
The Draft Budget gives no details or identity of the projects that council will fund this year and in future years, so it is difficult to assess whether council is meeting ratepayer expectations by giving its priority allocation of funds into buildings ahead of roads and parks.
Surely the council has got its priorities wrong when roads, parks and open space are such big losers.
There are some winners in this Draft Budget – farmers and staff.
The farmers’ rates have been reduced by 13 per cent which saves them $480,000.
Everyone else is worse off by having to pay an increase of 8.2 per cent which costs them an extra $3,008,000.
Council gets a net increase in rates of $2,500,000.
But it immediately gives away half the increase to the staff in pay rises of $1,200,000.
They are the real big winner! And, there are no staff reductions in sight for the next four years.
Then the Draft Budget has a proposed operating surplus for the year of $4,000,000.
Why was the rate revenue increase needed if it’s going to be kept as savings?
There is a long way to go before the council gets the right balance between revenue/staff costs/capital works spending.
Its own forward estimates show cuts to capital expenditure of $4 million over the next two years and pay increases to staff of $4 million.
We can only keep on imploring the councillors to take a lead on making changes to the balancing of the budget away from administration and into asset and service delivery.
So far as this draft budget is concerned, they have failed to give that leadership.
I expect to receive an explanation about the construction of the Draft Budget and the forward estimates from councillors and the executive.
R J McNamara, San Remo.