On the face of it, the council's draft budget may look bleak for the city's infrastructure and capital works - but the City of Ballarat says "a slight increase" in investment is expected despite how the figures read.
Taken on their own, the numbers show a precipitous drop of more than $28m for work renewing the city's assets over the next financial year, down from $53.9m in 2019/20 to $25.7m for the following year.
Asset upgrades also look to be on the point of declining by almost $4m, and spending on new assets projected to slip by $14.5m.
Meanwhile, capital works are shown as sliding from $96.95 million to $49.8 million, a drop partially alluded to in the budget's notes, which says "large capital projects were carried over from the 2018/19 budget to be completed during 2019/20."
A statement attributed to the Mayor Cr Ben Taylor suggested the true picture for renewing the city's assets is also more complex than first meets the eye.
Cr Taylor said the figure for 2019/20 included the Civic Hall upgrade and carryovers from the previous budget.
Next year's figure "does not include any major capital works or carryovers," he said.
"Taking out the Civic Hall upgrade and carryovers, there is actually expected to be a slight increase in asset renewal funding in the 2020/21 budget," Cr Taylor said.
The City of Greater Geelong's draft budget outlines plans for delivering 'the largest capital program in its history over the next two financial years'
The statement did not include how much was attributed to the Civic Hall works, nor the amount included in the total carryover.
Both the City of Greater Geelong and the City of Greater Bendigo include carryover figures in their budgets.
The draft budgets also tell very different stories in each respective council's approach to tackling the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The City of Greater Geelong's draft budget outlines plans for delivering "the largest capital program in its history over the next two financial years" which it says "will help stimulate the region's recovery from the pandemic crisis."
The $161.2m spending plans include a $22.6m carryover from 2019-20 forecast - and borrowings to total $66.9 million. By contrast, Bendigo, has a capital works budget of $43.6 million including a carryover of $9.54 million.
The council there is keeping also a much tighter rein on borrowing, with just $3 million in extra loans forecast. It will gain extra funds by raising rates by 2 per cent, the maximum allowed by the state government this financial year.
In Ballarat, a total of $17 million extra borrowing is projected. The budget document released earlier this month - and open for community feedback until June 8 - outlines an overall rate freeze for residents.
Draft budget coverage so far:
While residential rates will go up slightly overall - with properties that have the steepest increases in value facing the sharpest rises - commercial rates overall will decrease.
The budget reflects the shifting of $6 million previously allocated to the Bakery Hill for the next financial year to the following 2021/22.
There are other councils in Victoria that have followed the same path as the that proposed by the City of Ballarat with a rate freeze, but they are in the minority.
As well as the 2 per cent rate increase planned for Greater Bendigo, in Greater Geelong there is a planned rise of 1.9 per cent.
City of Ballarat's full response to queries for this article
Attributed to the mayor Cr Ben Taylor:
The City of Ballarat draft 2020/21 budget has been prepared using the Local Government Victoria model budget guidelines.
This ensures the budget meets the strictest accounting standards.
The asset renewal figure in the 2019/20 budget included the Civic Hall upgrade and carryovers from the 2018/19 budget.
The asset renewal figure forecast in the draft 2020/21 budget does not include any major capital works or carryovers from the 2019/20 budget.
Taking out the Civic Hall upgrade and carryovers from the 2018/19 budget, there is actually expected to be a slight increase in asset renewal funding in the 2020/21 budget.
The City of Ballarat's core capital program, which includes items such as roads, drainage, footpaths, library books etc, has increased by two per cent in this budget and there will be a $1 million increase in facilities maintenance over two years to a total of $4.7 million annually.
This budget was designed to increase funding for the delivery of services and the core capital program to the community.
The City of Ballarat is delivering exactly the same budget as was programmed pre-COVID, apart from the $17 million borrowings required to cover any fund shortfall related to the pandemic, particularly from rate revenue.
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