Draft budget up for vote

Latrobe City Council is proposing to increase rates for the next financial year by 5.24 per cent overall.

Councillors will tonight vote on whether to release the draft 2013/14 budget for public comment, which includes a $41 million capital works expenditure, a $13 million increase on the previous year.

This is largely attributed to a boost in funding for drainage and council relying heavily on state and federal government grants for major projects, to the tune of $11 million.

Draft budget highlights:

$357k Morwell Town Common access all abilities playground and car park

$295k Newman/Victory parks access track to Sound Shell and Couch’s Lane car park

$65k Traralgon City Soccer pitch drainage

$2.1m Latrobe Regional Airport upgrade

$1.1m Hazelwood Pondage wastewater upgrade

$550k Indoor recreation facility upgrades

$2.3m Moe outdoor pool upgrade

$850k Footpath replacement program

$1.18m Drainage upgrades

$300k Agnes Brereton Park netball court resurfacing

$7m Moe railway precinct revitalisation

$700k Churchill Town Centre Plan

$806k Energy efficient street lights and buildings

$3.5m New landfill cell

$4.5m Re-sealing of local roads

$30k Tourism strategy

$30k Online application for electronic submission of planning permits

$40k Traralgon to Morwell shared pathway design

* Figures include anticipated state and federal government contributions. Some listed projects have been previously announced.

More than $6 million of the capital works program relates to projects carried forward from the 2012/13 financial year.

According to the draft document, council plans to borrow $2 million for the next phase of the revitalisation of Moe’s railway precinct, but it is understood this will only go ahead if it is successful in securing a $5 million state and federal government contribution for the project in the next year.

The 5.24 per cent overall rate rise is made up of a 4.5 per cent general rate increase, plus charges for waste services and the State Government’s landfill levy.

It compares with last year’s increase of 5.8 per cent.

Baw Baw Shire Council is proposing a 5.2 per cent rate increase for residential properties, plus a two per cent garbage charge increase, while Wellington Shire has adopted a 5.7 per cent overall rates increase.

According to the draft, Latrobe City plans to spend $1.18 million on drainage upgrades along the Moe Walhalla Road, Crinigan Road in Morwell, Montane Estate in Newborough and Milburn Court in Traralgon.

The Traralgon City Soccer Club’s back pitch will have $65,000 spent on it.

The Valley’s indoor sports centres would get a major boost, with refurbishments to the gyms at the Morwell and Moe-Newborough leisure centres, along with the resurfacing of the Joe Carmody athletics track and a court and kiosk upgrade to the Traralgon Sports Stadium.

Council also plans to construct a new cell at the Hyland Highway landfill for $3.5 million.

If the budget is adopted, council will spend $40,000 to design a shared pathway between Traralgon and Morwell, along with another $50,000 to design a sports pavilion at the synthetic hockey pitch in Churchill.

While construction of an indoor aquatic centre at Traralgon and a performing arts centre at Morwell are listed as priority projects in council’s 10-year financial plan, they have not appeared in the budget, with Latrobe City deciding to focus first on the Moe railway precinct project.

If the draft budget is released for public comment tonight, copies will be made available at council service centres and online at www.latrobe.vic.gov.au

Fire services levy

Meanwhile, ratepayers can expect to see an extra charge on their rates notices from 1 July following changes to the fire services levy.

Local councils will now collect the money from property-owners on behalf of the State Government, rather than the tax being paid only by those with building and contents insurance.

A fixed charge of $100 will be paid by owners of residential properties, while all other properties will incur a fee of $200.

There will also be a charge based on the capital improved value of property, with home-owners this year expected to pay 11.5 cents per $1000.

Pensioners and veterans will be eligible for a $50 concession.

In response to the changes, Latrobe City has offered residents a longer period of time to pay their rates.

“We understand that some residents may receive a rates bill significantly higher than previous rate notices, because of the addition of the levy,” chief executive Paul Buckley said.

“You can begin to make payments from 1 July 2013 to spread the load.”

To take up the option of spreading payments over a longer period of time, phone the property and rates team at Latrobe City on 1300 367 700.

Ratepayers who take up this option will be exempt from interest, provided regular payments are received.