By Michael Giles
THIS week is ‘Good News Week’ where the Bass Coast Shire Council is concerned after it successfully landed a $900,000 grant for the development of the Bass Valley Children’s Centre at Corinella.
Not only that, but the shire has also announced that it is upping the budgeted allocation of $668,000 in ratepayers’ money to the centre ($195,000 borrowed) to $985,000, part of an overall cost of $2.2 million.
We’re not exactly sure where that additional money is coming from but would be keen to hear.
The numbers don’t exactly add up, but we are told that an additional $300,000 is still needed from other sources to fully fund the project, including money from the community and possibly a further regional infrastructure grant.
But the children’s centre committee and the shire don’t believe that will be a problem. The State Government’s commitment of $900,000 to the project was crucial and it will go ahead inside 18 months.
The development of this facility will be a godsend to the Western Port towns and rural areas around Corinella, providing more places for children and allowing more locals to make themselves available for work, study, training and other pursuits.
Earlier this year, the Bass Coast Shire Council was criticised for not making money available to match government grants, leaving us out of the running for projects of this kind completely.
The shire tells us it has started to turn its finances around with cutbacks and efficiencies leading to more money being available to match government grants.
This is what the community has been seeking for a long time.
But there’s still more to be done.
By far the biggest hit to the shire’s $70 million budget is the $29 million it spends on staff wages, a fair slab of which goes on executive salaries to its CEO, four general managers and 11 managers.
At around $320,000 annually, the CEO is getting almost as much as the Premier of Victoria and more than the Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy.
We’re told that market forces have pushed executive salaries in local government up to these alarming levels but it’s getting out of hand and surely something must be done to free up more money for necessary projects of this kind.
Meanwhile, the shire’s debt levels are expected to hit $12.8 million by June 30, 2016 and peak at $14 million-plus the following year. We’ll have to watch this figure.
So, good on the shire for attracting the grant, but the challenge is still there to fund necessary projects such as a new sports and aquatic centre for Wonthaggi and an aquatic centre for Cowes.
It is vital that basketball stadium space, swimming pools and other recreation facilities and activities are available for our youth and families because the alternative is the kind of health and social problems we see in under resourced areas.