Councillors agreed to give the new interim CEO breathing space to consider the detail of the 2020/21 budget proposed for the City of Ballarat.
Councillors heard two public submissions, with both speakers advocating for the decision on the proposed spending plan for next year to be delayed.
The first, Dr Elisa Zentveld, asked councillors if there was scope for extending the deadline. "Do you think this draft budget that was drafted in a pre-COVID-19 world could be better?" she asked. "Should the interim CEO have a role in the drafting in the budget?"
Public submissions for the draft budget closed on Monday June 8, but Dr Zentveld appealed for a second round of consultation. She also made observations about the detail of the budget, and queried whether enough savings had been found at a time of financial insecurity brought on by COVID-19 restrictions.
The second speaker, former mayor John Barnes, also strongly urged council to defer. "What is the rush?" he asked? "Why not give yourself time?"
I certainly need time to get across the budget and its principles, look at the submissionsJanet Dore, interim CEO
Both made the point the interim CEO had not been properly involved in the budget process and that councillors also had the distraction of the Ombudsman's report both in the build-up to the release of the draft budget and during the consultation period.
The deputy mayor Cr Belinda Coates asked the question of extending the time-frame directly of interim CEO Janet Dore, who responded: "I certainly need time to get across the budget and its principles, look at the submissions and get a bit more information around the strategic priorities and the delivery priorities."
Ms Dore recommended a reasonably short period of extension. She also said there was no reason public submissions could not continue, stating: "Council, in a technical sense, should be able to consider submissions right up to the point they make decisions."
There were 13 submissions in total to the draft budget this year - higher than most years, but a total that several councillors noted was a tiny fraction of the city's total population.
Cr Grant Tillett also strongly made the point that the $17 million of extra borrowings outlined in the draft budget would only be needed if there was enough of a shortfall.
No one can predict what will happen in terms of COVID-19Glenn Kallio, director of business services
The director of business services Glenn Kallio confirmed the money would "only be borrowed if cashflow required it."
He told the chamber that council was around $5 million further ahead in the recovery of rates than anticipated but he recommended the amount of potential borrowing remain unchanged. "I strongly advise council to leave that in there," he said. "No one can predict what will happen in terms of COVID-19."
The draft budget was released for public consultation on May 11. Councillors agreed to push back adoption of the budget until July 8. Public submissions will be reopened and will remain live until then.
- View the document at www.ballarat.vic.gov.au/city/about-us/budget.
Further budget coverage:
- Ballarat draft budget 2020/21: What's the real deal for how our money is being spent?
- City of Ballarat draft budget 2020/21: Residential rates to go up
- Council to cut agency staff
- Ballarat City Council's 2020-21 draft budget amid coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
- City of Ballarat budget 2020-21: Council proposes borrowing $17m for post-coronavirus budget
- Ballarat council draft budget 2020/21: Figures are not the full story
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