Hepburn Shire: surplus, small rate rise in budget

The Hepburn Shire Council has committed $25,000 this financial year to the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens master plan. PICTURE: Kate Healy

The Hepburn Shire Council has committed $25,000 this financial year to the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens master plan. PICTURE: Kate Healy

A FOUR per cent rate raise will be the price for close to a dozen new initiatives announced this week in the Hepburn Shire Council budget for 2014-2015.

Hepburn Mayor Don Henderson said the rate rise was one of the smallest in Victoria, while allowing the shire to maintain existing service levels and put money towards 11 worthwhile projects.

It will also allow the council to budget for a small surplus for the 2014-2015 financial year.

"Last year we had the lowest rates of the rural councils in Victoria. We've committed to keep that rate as low as we can," Cr Henderson said.

"We got to that point by making savings. Every division of our council has been asked to find ways to do things better and more efficiently. We've saved money on contracts and efficiencies but we haven't cut on services.

"A surplus is not mandatory but we've been saving money to get a better cash position. This year we've had a $400,000 net surplus and we've used that to pay down debt, especially debt which has a higher interest rate. Money you don't have to pay in interest is money you don't have hit up your ratepayers for."

The big ticket item among the new initiatives is the introduction of a "social enterprise" at transfer stations to reduce landfill, with $175,000 committed to the project.

Others large ticket items include $120,000 for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Slaty Creek, construction of a storage shed at the Glenlyon Recreation Reserve and a plan to replace street lighting across the shire with more efficient LED lighting ($35,000).

The shire has committed $7000 for the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve 150 year anniversary celebrations, and $15,000 to start a roll out of street banner brackets.

Money has also been allocated to feasibility studies and plans, including $25,000 for the Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens master plan, $20,000 towards a Trentham Childcare feasibility study, $10.000 to investigate the business case for pay and display parking meters in Daylesford, and a further $10,000 to fund community planning groups.

Total revenue is forecast at $28.86 million, down $731,000 on 2013-2014. However expenditure is also expected to be down to $27.43 million (from $27.91 million) allowing the shire to budget for a $1.428 million surplus.

www.hepburn.vic.gov.au

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