Councillors expect criticism of Ballarat's 2014-15 budget

ONE of the biggest challenges of Ballarat’s 2014-15 budget will be selling it to the public, city councillors claim.

The Ballarat City Council voted on Wednesday to release the draft budget to the public for feedback, but councillors also braced themselves for a storm of criticism over the 6.5 per cent rate rise underpinning it.

Moving the recommended motion, Cr Vicki Coltman said the document set up the council’s work in the previous year to deliver a program of major capital improvements.

She said it was up to the council to sell the message.

Referencing the Labor Party’s plan for a capped rates system, Cr Coltman said it was an important conversation to have with the community.

“If they want a capped rates system, what is it they do want? ...will they lose their libraries, will they lose their parking?”she said. “What will they forgo if we don’t raise rates?”

Cr Des Hudson said the 6.5 per cent increase in the residential rate was part of the existing four-year term budget to build a better Ballarat for the future.

He said the notion of capping rates would seem an easier sell but it would hamstring the council.

The commercial rate was also supposed to go up by 6.5 per cent but the council has proposed a 4.5 per cent rise instead.

Mayor Joshua Morris and Cr John Philips said it was part of a process to enhance business in the city.

Also speaking in support of the draft, Cr McIntosh said a key part of the budget was delivering support for Ballarat’s rural and regional communities, while Cr Belinda Coates said she would like to see more investment in environmental measures to save money over time.

Cr Amy Johnson said the council should look to explore efficiencies such as services that could be delivered jointly and that it was important to demonstrate that the city was operating as efficiently as possible.

“I understand people in the community do experience hardship,” she said.

A special meeting will be held on June 18 for public submissions, with a meeting for adoption of the budget scheduled for June 25.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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