The City of Ballarat is pushing forward with plans for a 6.5 per cent rate hike in the coming financial year.
The council’s 2014-15 draft budget, proposed for public release next week, would see the city continue with its current focus of investing in major infrastructure and community building projects.
It comes on the heels of the council’s biggest spending budget in history and a 7.5 per cent rate rise this year.
Councillors will vote on a recommendation on Wednesday to release the draft to the public for feedback.
It is also proposed that a special meeting be held on June 18 for public submissions, with a meeting for adoption of the budget scheduled for June 25.
Highlights of the 2014-15 program would include $13.44 million for roads, drains and footpath projects across the city, with $1.18 million dedicated to rural roads.
A $1.3 million sum would also be allocated to the maintenance of council building assets.
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.
It also signalled ratepayers would be footing the bill for years to come, with a 6.5 per cent rise in 2014-15 set to be followed by increases of 6 per cent in 2015-16 and 5.5 per cent a year for subsequent years.
The commercial rate was also supposed to rise by 6.5 per cent in the coming financial year.
But in a surprise announcement, business operators are offered a more palatable 4.5
per cent rise “to further promote Ballarat as an attractive destination for investment”.
A statement by the council said the decision followed “consultation during the 2013-14 budget”.
“The draft budget has been developed to ensure Ballarat remains in a strong financial position and manage one of regional Australia’s fastest growing populations,” the council’s statement read.
“In line with its long-term financial strategy, council continues its commitment to sustainable financial management in the 2014-15 draft budget, with a proposed rate increase of 6.5 per cent.”
Major road renewal projects include $381,000 for Middlin Street, Brown Hill; $327,000 for Charlotte Street, Sebastopol; and $436,000 for Armstrong Street South, Ballarat Central.
A further $400,000 is included for the Township Empowerment Program in Learmonth, Buninyong and Miners Rest, and other neighbourhood initiatives.
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.
There would be $100,000 for the repair of heritage tram tracks at Lake Wendouree, a $240,000 dedicated investment in bicycle projects and $571,000 for neighbourhood parks, including playgrounds.