Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Campaspe Shire rates set at 6 per cent

Campaspe Shire councillors adopted the Budget, complete with a 6 per cent rate rise.

July 8, 2014 3:11am

Campaspe Shire’s decision to raise rates by 6 per cent was responsible, according to some of the nine councillors.

Councillors adopted the Budget, complete with a 6 per cent rate rise, in a tense meeting at Echuca Civic Centre on Tuesday.

Cr Emma Bradbury tried to move a last-minute motion to lower the rate rise from 6 per cent to 5.5 per cent.

Cr Neil Pankhurst and mayor Ian Maddison attacked Cr Bradbury’s motion.

Both suggested a 7.5 per cent rate increase was a more responsible decision, given the Federal Government’s decision to freeze indexation of Financial Assistance Grants for local government.

Cr Maddison said Cr Bradbury’s motion was laughable and that the draft Budget up for adoption had no fat in it.

Cr Pankhurst also put the issue of reducing council costs back onto the 2627 ratepayers who signed a petition calling for rate rises to remain at CPI.

‘‘While they said they did not want another 6 per cent rate rise, they did not offer any solutions on how to lower costs,’’ he said.

‘‘Well, in fairness to them, that is not their job,’’ Cr Bradbury said in response.

Cr Bradbury identified cuts of $15,000 to a hydrotherapy pool study, $99,500 in organisation savings, $30,000 less in cash reserves and a reduction in the municipal charge from $150 to $100 as a way to deliver a fairer and more balanced budget.

Cr Bradbury said her proposal, while being a modest decrease for the ratepayer still offered a balanced budget.

‘‘It is disingenuous and disrespectful to the community to say that the only way for things to happen is to either increase rates or cut services,’’ she said.

‘‘It is time for us to consider a whole range of options.’’

Councillors rejected her motion five votes to four.

Cr Paul Jarman called for councillors to adopt the draft Budget.

He said council was listening to ratepayers who were concerned about paying another 6 per cent increase, describing the budget process as a long, hard road.

Cr Adrian Weston said he was ashamed to be a part of a council which had ignored the wishes of so many ratepayers.

Cr Weston said rates had tripled in the past 15 years, while the shire had a similar population.

Cr Maddison attacked Cr Weston on the figures.

‘‘You plucked a figure out of the archives, well let’s look at the facts,’’ he said.

‘‘Fifteen years ago our capital works expenditure was a quarter of what it was then and we were building assets hand over fist without anything put aside to renew or replace them.

‘‘We could have gone down the path of raising rates by 9 per cent and closing our asset renewal gap.

‘‘There is an expectation of us to provide services, maintain halls and roads as well as provide services.’’

Cr Maddison said he was taken back by the irresponsibility of some councillors who supported Cr Bradbury’s motion.

Most of them claimed the 6 per cent rise was irresponsible.

‘‘It is naive to think that there would not be long-term implications,’’ he said.

‘‘A 6 per cent rate rise is the most responsible decision for the future.’’

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