Council to discuss submissions on draft budget at special meeting

TWELVE public submissions received by the Ballarat City Council raising concerns about its draft budget will be discussed at a special council meeting on Wednesday night.

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The council has received eight written submissions and councillors are expected to hear a further four verbal presentations at the meeting from residents about the  2014-15 draft budget.

While the council is remaining tight-lipped on much of the content enclosed in the submissions, Ballarat City Council chief executive Anthony Schinck revealed subjects included concerns about the proposed rate increase, car parking spaces, street trees and the council’s community impact grants program. 

He said the number of submissions was drastically lower than last year’s budget, which received 116 written submissions – including many on the same issue – and 15 verbal presentations.

But he said that in 2011, the council only received 11 submissions for the budget.

Ballarat councillor John Philips said the special meeting was an open forum for discussion between ratepayers and the council. 

“Money gets tighter every year and we are very conscious that we need to get the maximum we possibly can for our ratepayers,” he said.

Cr Belinda Coates said last year’s budget had set the ball in motion for the council and this year’s budget was about ensuring large-scale projects were seen through to fruition. 

The council initially planned a 6.5 per cent residential hike, but it was reduced by councillors to 5.5 per cent in the face of a backlash over the financial burden to the community in May. 

The commercial rate was also changed from a rise of 4.5 per cent to a rise of 3.5 per cent.

Other big-ticket items included in the 2014-15 program include $13.44 million for roads, drains and footpath projects across the city, with $1.8 million dedicated to rural roads.

A $1.3 million lump sum has also been allocated to the maintenance of council building assets.

Other proposals include $1.25 million towards more car parking in Ballarat’s hospitals precinct; $408,000 for city beautification projects at city entrances, Victoria Street, Sturt Street and the Ballarat Botanical Gardens and $374,000 for the installation and preservation of the city’s public monuments, street furniture and art installations. 

Last year the council voted to take out a $25 million loan to help fund the Civic Hall precinct, an indoor 50-metre pool and the Ballarat Regional Soccer Facility. 

Following Wednesday night’s meeting, the draft budget will be considered for adoption at the next ordinary meeting on July 9.

The meeting will be held from 7pm on Wednesday at the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Sturt Street, Ballarat.

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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