Bringing home the rates

VINCENT ratepayers are looking at a 4.14 per cent rates increase this year—well above Australia’s 2.5 per cent inflation rate.

The budget was previewed Tuesday night with some councillors concerned about where the cash is going.

Cr John Carey was scathing of the amount put aside for bike infrastructure, saying the couple of hundred thousand needed to be more in the ballpark of a couple of million.

“I think we’re greatly underfunding bicycle network infrastructure,” he said, noting congestion in Vincent was at crisis point with gridlock hitting main streets every afternoon.

Mayor Alannah MacTiernan said the sale of Tamala Park should rake in $20 million over 10 years and some of that could go towards a comprehensive bike network.

Cr Dudley Maier suggested $12,000 for a homelessness forum could be better spent on front-line services.

“Is this actually going to do something, or is it just a feel-good exercise?” The mayor agreed: “Sometimes I think we spend more money on meetings about the homeless than we do on the homeless.”

Vincent’s had a resurgence in rough sleepers recently, though Cr Warren McGrath reported some long-termers at Forrest Park had recently moved out.

“Maybe they heard about our rates increase,” Cr Josh Topelberg quipped. Councillors decided to rebrand the line item a homelessness “project”, enabling some flexibility on what to spend the cash on.

Cr John Carey wasn’t happy with the ad hoc funding of a slew of charity cases. The council hands out about $22,000 a year in dribs and drabs to charities like the Salvation Army and also for students’ scholarships.

He said the council should focus on funding groups that serviced Vincent residents, and leave it up to individuals to donate to broader causes.

But Ms MacTiernan said $22,000 from a budget of $43m was modest and it was expected that councils would contribute when charities shook the tin.

by DAVID BELL

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