IT’S a neat idea.
The South Gippsland Shire Council put up rates to pay for a new shire office in Leongatha.
But now, as a result of an electoral backlash and a once-in-a-lifetime offer by the Leongatha RSL, the shire no longer needs the money!
So, according to former councillor David Lewis, the shire should simply give the money back to us.
“Many people in our shire have fixed or falling incomes or are otherwise facing tough times,” Mr Lewis told a public presentation session last Wednesday, before the February Council Meeting.
“So I submit this $9 million should be used to reduce the future burden on ratepayers and this issue should be addressed by councillors when considering agenda Item 5.1: “To remove capital expenditure and borrowings associated with the funding for a municipal precinct, library and community centre project proposal in the 2017/18 budget and long term financial plan.”
However, while Council voted unanimously at the meeting which followed, to remove the funding from the budget, giving the $9 million back to the people was not discussed.
Instead, councillors were more inclined to look at other projects which might now be affordable, including the development of a new civic centre/community hub and library in Leongatha.
Although, the existing RSL club could be the place for that now.
In his remarks, Mr Lewis referred to excerpts from the shire’s budget and meeting papers in which it is identified that the council was proposing to use $5.5 million from its cash reserves and $3.67 million from its working capital capacity, a total of $9.17 million from within the currently adopted 2016/17 budget, towards the anticipated cost of $24.72 million for the new municipal complex.
Mr Lewis said that while the shire council was looking to scrap its municipal precinct plans, “there is no mention of the future plans for $9 million of cash in the agenda report or in the recommendations from the council officers”.
“Hopefully the $9 million will be used to reduce the burden on ratepayers rather than being allocated to new spending,” he said in his submission.
He also revealed that the shire would be awash with cash by 2021-22, having a total of $18.178 million in reserves unless adjustments were made now.
It’s a far cry from the situation in Bass Coast!
But he said the shire shouldn’t simply splash the money around.
“New projects have to be evidenced based. It’s not just enough for it to be a good idea,” he said.
“Everyone would like to have a community hub but providing everything that is desirable is well beyond the ratepayers’ ability to pay.”