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Moira budget debate heats up

Public meetings held in Moira towns, including Yarrawonga, provided lively debate, centred around the shire’s proposed 2014/15 budget over the past week.

FIONA BLICK June 3, 2014 4:31pm

Former employees, residents and business professionals have weighed into the conversation, as the council accepts submissions on the draft budget.

Scott Olson, a resident of Koonoomoo and a farm business broker, told the Chronicle he has put a formal submission to council asking, among other concerns, how his annual rates notice was calculated.

“As a Moira shire ratepayer for many years now, my annual rate notice from last year, the one sent to me for payment, was based on the 2013-14 adopted budget, not the “revised” 2013-14 Forecast,” Mr Olson said.

“Therefore, as a Moira Shire ratepayer, if trying to estimate/compare last year’s rate notice with the one heading my way very soon, then the “revised” 2013-14 Forecast is a meaningless column of figures used by council to gloss-over (with a trowel) the true impact of their proposed increase in rates.”

Mr Olson said he believed Moira Shire ratepayers were only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

“The bad medicine is coming if we don’t get our act together,” he said. 

“The chickens are coming home to roost.”

Yarrawonga resident John Shorten told the Chronicle he would be sending in a submission questioning council’s “other” expenses.

“I am not an accountant but I know things should add up,” Mr Shorten said.

“I was advised by a shire official the ‘other revenues’ column in the Budget Income Statement 2013/18 which shows amounts of $469,193 for 2013/14, $431,316 for 2014/15 and $409,427 for 2015/16 represented unbudgeted scrap metal income.

“So, is this a standard budget income item or just a cut and paste for the following years?

“What exactly is ‘other revenue’ and how is it calculated?”

Employee costs were another concern for Mr Shorten, not the amount but “the fact, once again, they don’t add up”.

“In the Budget Cash Flow Statement 2013/18 employee costs for this financial year are $17,256,474 yet in the Budget Income Statement for the same period the amount is $17,693,810; which figure is correct?” Mr Shorten asked.

“And how can any organisation list “other expenses” as $4.3 million for 2014/15; what are other expenses?”

Former Moira Shire Chief Financial Officer Adrian Pawar, who left the shire in sensational circumstances last year, has also put forward a budget submission.

“Council is obtaining capital grants for future years and deferring capital expenditure which will see council run into financial trouble as they use grants got in advance but will not have funds in the following year to meet expenditure,” Mr Pawar said.

“How is it that in the budget documents on the council’s website the 2014/15 year was forecast to have $896,000 surplus but now the council will turn it around into a $2.15 million deficit?

“I ask you, is there reason to be concerned about council’s capability to ensure the shire is financially stable?”

Moira Shire Council Mayor Peter Mansfield has said publicly even he is not happy with the proposed budget.

“How do you defend the indefensible?” Cr Mansfield told the Chronicle last month.

“I find it very difficult to defend the draft budget’s capital works program.”

Council’s proposed budget is available to view online and printed copies are still on display at Service Centres.

Submissions must be received by Moira Shire Council by close of business today (Wednesday, June 4) however residents can still write to council or councillors at any stage and voice an opinion.

Moira Shire will consider all written and online submissions and hear any person who wishes to be heard in support of their submission.

A special meeting of council will be scheduled for 6pm Tuesday, June 10 in Cobram to hear and consider public submissions on the proposed 2014/15 budget.

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