Council seeks community feedback on 2024/25 draft Annual Budget

Published on 29 April 2024

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Following its meeting on Wednesday night, Murrindindi Shire Council has released its draft Annual Budget for 2024/25 for community feedback.

Community members can read the draft Budget online on Council's community engagement platform, The Loop, or at one of Council’s Library and Customer Service Centres.

Every year, Council develops a Budget that outlines the funding required to deliver essential services to its community and the priorities outlined in its 2021-2025 Council Plan.

The preparation of the 2024/25 Budget has been challenging for Council as it attempts to fund the delivery of services and infrastructure that the community expects, while navigating escalating costs and the limited ability to raise revenue.

The draft Budget has been carefully prepared with an approach that includes advocating for increased government grants, responsible borrowing, comprehensive efficiency reviews, process automation, asset consolidation, and initiatives aimed at expanding our rate base and stimulating economic growth.

Average rate increases will be limited to 2.75% in line with the Victorian Government’s Rate Cap, with Council proposing not to seek a variation to the cap for next financial year.

Following community feedback, Council will consider all comments received as it finalises the Budget for adoption at a Special Meeting Scheduled for 12 June.  

Murrindindi Shire Mayor Cr Damien Gallagher said “Just as increases in the cost of living are impacting household budgets, so too are these difficult economic conditions impacting Council’s capacity to do business.

“As a small rural council, our ability to meet these additional cost pressures is largely limited to rates revenue and annual government financial assistance grants, which represents 60% of our total annual revenue.  We are proposing to keep rate rises to 2.75%, in line with the Victorian Government’s rate cap, recognising the cost-of-living impacts on our community, and government financial assistance grants will increase by 3.24%. Unfortunately, these two revenue sources are not keeping pace with inflation and cost pressures.”

“Our current financial position remains sound, but we face medium to long-term challenges due to cost pressures. While our projected operating result for 2024/25 shows a $2.33 million surplus, this is underpinned by $5.8 million in grant income for capital works. Excluding these grants, our underlying budget result is a deficit of $3.6 million. Addressing this recurring underlying deficit without reducing community service levels remains a major challenge.”

“This Budget aims to achieve cost reduction without comprising quality. We’re exploring efficiency reviews, shared services, and strategic borrowing. Additionally, we’re investing in technology to streamline access to information and collaborate with neighbouring councils.”

“Borrowing is a prudent financial practice for early infrastructure delivery. Our draft budget includes a provision to borrow up to $3 million for critical projects with sound business cases and an opportunity to offset borrowing costs through savings or additional revenues, where the benefits of the project extend over several years.”

“Our strategy is to reduce the financial impact of rate increases for our community by growing our population through new development. We plan to borrow up to $1.5 million to fund partnerships to address the housing shortage, potentially using vacant Council land. Additionally, to address accommodation availability and affordability challenges, Council is proposing an increase in the differential rate applicable to vacant developable land from 150% to 200% of the residential rate.  This is to encourage housing or commercial/industrial development on land that has been specifically zoned for this purpose.”

“While we’ve secured one-off grant funding for infrastructure projects, we believe our share of untied, recurrent government funding is insufficient. We’re advocating for a review of funding allocation by the Victorian Local Government Grants Commission, emphasising Murrindindi Shire Council’s fair share.”

“The draft Budget proposes a $14.1 million capital works program dedicated to the renewal or upgrade of our existing infrastructure, of which 40% is funded through government grants. With escalating costs and many of our public building assets underutilised, if we are to solve our underlying deficit, we will need to work with the community to make hard decisions around which assets can be rationalised, and which are prioritised for renewal.”

“Despite the challenges, Council has approached this draft Budget with optimism, confident in our ability to manage Council’s finances responsibly, equitably and sustainably. We encourage community members to have their say on the draft Budget by making a submission by 24 May.”

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