AN austere budget’s been passed by Vincent council with a steep 7.6 per cent rate rise and the end of the beloved free hour in council carparks.
The council’s trying to catch up on having frozen rates during the covid era, wants to pay off old debt, plans to put aside money for underground power, and needs to keep creaky assets in acceptable condition.
With the council facing inflation and rising costs like everyone else, that makes for a 7.6 per cent rate rise which has predictably been unpopular with the public who commented on the budget: 71 per cent opposed the increase during consultation.
At the July 5 budget meeting mayor Emma Cole said “this has been the hardest budget I’ve ever sat on in terms of the decisions that we have to make.
“I wake up at 4am in the morning thinking about the budget. I’ve been thinking about this budget for a long time, and one of the drivers for me is to leave the City of Vincent in a better place than when I came to this council.”
Ms Cole said the council now has a solid long term financial plan, they plan capital works four years ahead, and can more responsibly maintain their assets.
The council’s also removed the free first hour in council carparks and will now charge $1, a measure intended to get more cash in from parking fees rather than having to raise rates even higher than 7.6 per cent. Former councillor Dudley Maier pointed out that commercial ratepayers face an even stiffer increase than residents this year, which he calculated to be an effective increase of 20.9 per cent to business rates.
That’s because the council stopped collecting waste from businesses last year due to the switch to FOGO. The first year the council gave businesses a $520 rebate to make up for the lost service but this year there’s no relief.
“I think the treatment of businesses is appalling,” Mr Maier told councillors.
During the meeting there were no moves to ease the burden on businesses but Ms Cole noted the actual base rate-in-the-dollar charged to businesses was pretty low (and it’ll remain proportionately cheaper than what residential ratepayers pay).
Two of the new councillors elected in October 2021, Ross Ioppolo and Ron Alexander, suggested the council could keep the rates bill lower by not collecting so much revenue marked for projects they’d likely never start this financial year.
Every single year Vincent council, like many others, collects money for capital projects that they don’t actually get around to. Sometimes it’s because they run out of time, or don’t have the staff-power or materials, or because the project is stretched over multiple years. This year they carried forward about $5million of capital works projects from last year.
Cr Ioppolo proposed lowering the amount of rates collected to bring it closer to what they could reasonably spend based on previous years: “I’m 99 per cent confident you’re not going to spend this money,” so they shouldn’t collect it this year, he argued.
“I’m not asking for any cuts in capital expenditure, I’m asking for deferment of things that we know we will not spend [on] this financial year.”
That proposal could’ve reduced the rates increase from 7.6 per cent to 4.5 per cent.
Cr Alexander agreed with the plan saying this was a tough year for people and it didn’t make sense to collect rates that’d sit around not being spent.
But other councillors were satisfied by Vincent admin’s assurances they could get the work done and that they still needed to collect cash to get the ball rolling on future years’ projects, and Cr Ioppolo’s amendment was lost.
by DAVID BELL