Low rates rise proposed

State Government-imposed rate-capping will again keep the annual rates increase low for Latrobe City, with a two per cent rates and charges rise proposed for the next financial year.

Released for public perusal this week, the draft 2017/18 Latrobe City budget maintains a special farm rate at 75 per cent of the general rate and in a bid to crack down on eyesores, includes a ‘derelict properties’ rate at a 300 per cent increase above the general rate.

The Express understands council has so far identified two properties that will be subject to the derelict classification.

More than $37 million in capital works includes the long-awaited Traralgon to Morwell shared pathway, upgrades to the old Traralgon Court House, design work for the Latrobe Creative Precinct in Traralgon which encompasses a new performing arts centre and the currently-underway Latrobe Regional Gallery refurbishment.

There will also be a 60 per cent discount on hiring public halls for not-for-profit community groups in a bid to get more use out of those facilities.

“We used to have a hall-hiring grants process which had a limited budget and a lot of people who would access that grants process would get some money or contribution towards the use of the hall, but that was limited,” Latrobe City’s acting general manager corporate services Angelo Saridis said.

“We focused on trying to provide significant incentive in terms of a flat discount.”

A council officer’s report highlights challenges faced by council to maintain its current services and a “robust capital works program” in the climate of rate capping, a federal indexation freeze on Financial Assistance Grants and the increase in childcare and pre-school staffing ratio requirements.

It also flagged “significant financial challenges” facing council in the coming years due to Hazelwood’s closure.

The coal-fired power plant wound down at the end of last month. It makes payments in lieu of rates to council, the exact figure is not released to the public.

The Express understands council has budgeted as it normally would for this contribution, but discussions are underway as to how the station’s closure will affect this revenue stream in the future.

Budget documents show the total payments to council in lieu of rates – including contributions from local power generators and Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill – will be $9.4 million.

Projects recently allocated multi-millions of dollars in state and federal government funding as part of Latrobe Valley’s transition, including a new indoor pool at Traralgon, were not included in the budget papers.

A council officer’s report stated “accurate project timelines and operational impacts” had not yet been established for those projects.

The capital works budget includes a series of sporting projects like cricket pitch upgrades at Traralgon West Sporting Complex. Drainage investigations are listed for Ted Summerton Reserve in Moe and Ronald Reserve in Morwell.

The Express is seeking further detail about these investigations.

The draft budget can be viewed at Latrobe City service centres or online www.latrobe.vic.gov.au

Submissions can be made until 6pm on Wednesday, 17 May.