Infrastructure renewal a priority of Ballarat City Council's draft budget

AGEING infrastructure renewal is one of the key focuses of Ballarat City Council’s draft 2014-15 budget.

Sturt Street will benefit from a beautification project.

Sturt Street will benefit from a beautification project.

The council’s chief financial officer, Glenn Kallio, said on Monday some of Ballarat’s infrastructure, such as statues, monuments, public art, street entrances and playgrounds, had been basically untouched for 20 years due to funding shortfalls following the controversial council amalgamations of the mid-1990s.

“This council is now dealing with the problem,” Mr Kallio said.

“For 20 years we haven’t had enough money and this council wants to increase the amount of investment in infrastructure renewal.”

In the draft budget, playground replacement is allocated $260,000, city beautification projects – particularly at the town entrances and Victoria and Sturt streets – will receive $408,000 and public art and monuments are to get a $208,000 facelift.

The Ballarat Botanical Gardens will be rejuvenated, $12.260 million worth of roads, drains and footpaths renewed, the Lake Wendouree tram tracks replaced and street furniture changed over.

Mr Kallio defended a 6.5 per cent rate rise, saying it was needed not just for capital works projects but mainly for infrastructure renewal and service standard increases.

He said a growth fund was created to set aside funds for future capital works, such as a Lucas community centre, a Ballarat West library or arterial roads.

“We need money for items of expenditure in five to 10 years’ time.

“We’re trying to avoid major problems when they occur.”

The council’s chief executive officer, Anthony Schinck, said local government often had to “pick up the slack” for other government tiers while relying mainly on just rate revenue and user fees.

“But we’re not running a deficit budget like the federal government,” Mr Schinck said.

“The financial planning of three successive councils has got us to the position we’re in this year. We don’t spend more than we earn.”

fiona.henderson@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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