Price hike to cause arts headache

Amateur theatre and community groups are set to feel a sharp rise in the cost of hiring Traralgon’s Little Theatre and Town Hall after Latrobe City Council corrected an error in its fees and charges.

In the last financial year, groups had effectively enjoyed a one-off bonus, when the on-peak community rate for hiring the venue was accidentally listed as the same amount as the off-peak price.

Unaware of the error, council adopted the fees and was therefore required to allow the discount for the rest of the year.

It has now restored a higher rate to peak times and raised all charges by the consumer price index, effectively doubling the peak cost of hire for community and local theatre groups.

It was one of the matters raised at Monday night’s special council meeting to hear submissions to the 2013/14 Draft Budget.

Latrobe Theatre Company treasurer Simon Hemming said the concessional peak rate had allowed the company to return to the arts centre for “sell-out shows”.

“We try to maintain low ticket prices, and with the fee increase, it could result in us having to cancel plans for our next production,” Mr Hemming told the meeting.

“We know we have to pay our own way and council are doing an awful lot to try and help us, but I want the councillors to know the plight of community theatre groups when it comes to paying for that venue,” he told The Express.

Council received eight submissions to its draft budget which proposes an overall 5.24 per cent rate increase and a $41 million capital works budget.

Robert Farmer addressed councillors on behalf of the Latrobe City Farm Ratepayers Association in support of the 25 per cent rates discount for farmers.

“As the farm business improves its productivity via the land, so does that land’s value increase, thus lifting its assessable value for rating purposes,” Mr Farmer said.

“This differs from the urban or industrial situation, where the performance of the business or individual… has no bearing on the value of the property.

“Our committee and members congratulate council for recognising the inequity that does exist.”

Submissions also included support for the $300,000 upgrade of netball courts at Traralgon’s Agnes Brereton Park and grant funding requests by the Grand Strzelecki Track and Boolarra Memorial Park committees of management, along with a request by the Yallourn Golf Club for a review of rates.

Council will vote on whether to adopt the proposed budget on Monday, 5 July.