July 6th, 2023Focus on completing capital works as council adopts $59Million budget
The Hepburn Shire Council has adopted a $59 million budget for 2023/2024, with investment focused on completing major capital works and delivering services to the community.
Rate increases have been capped at 3.5 percent in line with the Victorian Government’s Fair Go Rates System. This compares to a seven percent CPI increase in the year to March 2023.
And the shire’s annual waste charges will increase on average by 6.20% reflecting increased service costs to users of the service.
This increase will amount to an average additional cost of $35 per property per year. The standard annual fee for a residential property (weekly garbage collection and fortnightly recycling) will now be $570 or the equivalent of $10.96 per week.
Mayor, Cr Brian Hood, said the new budget had been carefully developed in ‘one of the toughest financial environments in recent history’.
“Council will deliver $19.4 million of capital works, completing some of the committed projects across the Shire and carrying out regular renewal works,” Cr Hood said.
“This is in addition to our day-to-day operations which include delivering important community services such as libraries, community grants, parks and gardens, road maintenance, tourism, reconciliation and events, just to name a few,” he said.
Cr Hood said this is a fiscally responsible budget that is constrained by many factors outside the council’s control.
“Our Shire has been significantly impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic and multiple storm events over the last few years. Now we are also facing high inflation and interest rates, sector-wide shortages of construction contractors and extraordinary increases to material and construction costs,” said Cr Hood.
“Council is in a delicate and challenging financial position which must continue to be prudently managed if community needs are to be met and longer-term viability enhanced.
“The budget could aptly be described as a business-as-usual budget, in terms of service delivery, but with a major focus on stabilising the longer-term outlook and completing storm recovery works, especially on the road network.”
Major project investment includes:
- $5.90 million – completion of Creswick Trails.
- $3.00 million – renewal of the Historic Wheelers Bridge in Lawrence with $2.8 million Federal Government funding.
- $2.73 million – renewal, resealing and gravel re-sheeting of roads across the Shire.
- $2.02 million – completion of the Trentham Community Hub in early 2024.
- $1.00 million – Stage 1 of remediation works at Daylesford Town Hall, with a further $200,000 for scoping and planning of staff accommodation and Birch ward community facilities.
- $150,000 for detailed design of the Glenlyon Recreation Reserve Pavilion.
- $100,000 to further designs for the Clunes Recreation Reserve Masterplan.
- $140,000 for remedial works at Trentham and Drummond tennis courts.
“Rates and charges make up over half of Council’s annual budgeted revenue and are vital to enable us to provide the services and facilities that our community needs. Council has not applied to the Essential Services Commission for a rate cap variation,” said Cr Hood.
A significant component of Council’s operating expenditure for the financial year ($6.50 million) relates to costs associated with storm recovery works undertaken by Council to support the community.
This budget proposes $5.9 million of new borrowings to support the delivery of key infrastructure projects. This includes $1.0 million allocated as stage one of vital remedial works for the Daylesford Town Hall and $4.9 million for the construction of the 60-kilometre Creswick Mountain Bike Trail Network. The project is expected to be delivered for $9.4 million (2017-2024) with secured government funding of $2.57 million.
Since developing the draft budget, the council has received $6.1 million in Federal Government Financial Assistance Grants, which was paid in June 2023 rather than in the expected period of four payments throughout 2023/24. This is simply an issue of timing in receiving this funding.
A number of other minor changes were made by the council due to funding announcements, a review of the capital projects listing, and necessary corrections. These changes, which are mainly timing, mean that Council’s targeted unrestricted cash balance as at 30 June 2024 has reduced from the draft budget amount of $1,044,000 to $963,520 in the adopted budget. This is recognised as a very small buffer against unforeseen events.
“We will be undertaking a full review of the ten-year Financial Plan in coming months, along with a broad review of service offerings,” he said.
“Balancing the financial outlook, community expectations and statutory responsibilities will continue to be challenging, especially given the pressures on government grant funding and from the State Government rate cap.
“Despite the tough financial environment, we are pleased to have adopted a budget that allows us to fund important programs and projects that align to our Community Vision and Council Plan, while allowing us to continue the repair of Council’s financial position.
“Thank you to everyone who took the time to make a submission on the budget and identify opportunities for future projects.”
The newly adopted budget is now publicly available for those interested to view on the council’s website at https://www.hepburn.vic.gov.au/budget.