Gibson defends rate increase

Related coverage: Rejoice over major projectsLong-awaited funds allocated

Latrobe City Council has touted its proposed budget for the next finanical year as “prudent”, while maintaining services and boosting funding for major projects.

Councillors voted unanimously on Monday night to release the document, which includes a rates increase of 5.24 per cent overall, for public comment.

Acting mayor Sharon Gibson this week defended the rate rise, saying councillors fought to keep it as low as possible, while factoring in “burdens” like $6.9 million in the defined benefits scheme superannuation payment and increased utility costs.

The 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.

Cr Gibson said initial projections for the next financial year had the general rate rise at five per cent.

“There were a number of councillors there who didn’t want high rates, so we sent it back and said ‘trim’,” Cr Gibson said.

She could not be drawn on exactly where the cuts were made, but said it didn’t impact services or the capital works budget.

“People are doing it hard. So we’re very mindful of that and we’re trying as hard as possible to keep things down,” she said.

Council will this year rely heavily on state and federal government grants, with $11 million of the $41 million capital works program to come from outside sources and Cr Gibson admitted this was a concern.

“I would be hopeful they would see we are a region (which needs to be) looked after more than others because of our circumstances,” Cr Gibson said.

“We have to have special consideration given to us.”

Cr Gibson acknowledged the turnaround of planning permit applications “had to be better” and said she was confident new budget initiatives would address the issue.

Council will employ three additional full-time staff in the planning department and spend $30,000 to implement an online program where planning permit applications can be submitted electronically.

“Investors and industry, if they want to come down here, the first port of call has to be planning,” Cr Gibson said.

“Too often am I hearing complaints from investors having trouble and are going elsewhere.”

Full copies of the draft budget can be accessed at Latrobe City service centres or online at

Submissions will be received until Wednesday, 24 July.

Council will meet to consider the submissions to the draft budget on Monday, 29 July.