Councillors listened to a series of thoughts about one of the most ambitious budgets in recent years - and the first to be shaped by the new council elected last year.
In the virtual, unscheduled meeting, three contributors dialled in to proceedings to speak to their written submissions.
The first call came from Paul Mong, president of the Ballarat Tramway Museum, who urged councillors to consider matching $1.2milion of state funding to replace ageing tram tracks.
"The track is in some parts over 100 years old, the current track is in very poor condition and in some places beyond repair," Mr Mong told councillors, adding that two trams were not able to run due to the state of disrepair.
There was 300 metres replaced in works dating back to 2019. Mr Mong said matching state funding would allow the entire track to be upgraded.
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City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King made no commitments, but said officers would look to see if savings could be made if council funds coincided with the state grant.
A subsequent submission came from Judith Bailey, who asked the council withdraw its intention to use state funding for lighting around Lake Wendouree.
The mayor Cr Daniel Moloney responded by making the point the project was not funded by ratepayers. He highlighted that a meeting is imminent to decide a planning permit application application and encouraged Ms Bailey to tune in to that.
Ms Bailey also encouraged the council to re-evaluate the detail of the City of Ballarat's LED street lighting, which is being introduced to replace older, less energy-efficient lights. She said the technology proposed was already out of date. Council officers said they would look into the technicalities of her submission and consider the options.
The most in-depth verbal submission came from former mayor and ex council employee John Barnes, who praised the City of Ballarat for greater clarity in this year's budget, calling it a "breath of fresh air".
He also welcomed the increased spend ($90m in total) on asset maintenance, saying it was an area that been neglected and the council was playing "catch-up".
Balancing the praise with critique, he said the strategic direction of the budget was "not at all clear". and highlighted two areas in need of more urgent attention. These included addressing domestic energy consumption. He said the city's old housing stuck was inefficient and pushed for council to facilitate an energy audit and retrofit, potentially by offering a rebate.
He flagged the other urgent matter as "housing market failure", saying "some serious policy work" would be needed this year to ensure the council improved on its performance in attempting to meet a targets of providing 50 per cent infill housing.
He acknowledged that it was a "very difficult" policy area.
The draft revenue and rating plan, which looks at the longer term options for collecting rates, was also considered, with Mr Barnes being the only one to speak to that item. He said measures in this year's draft budget to address an imbalance in the burden on commercial and industrial ratepayers were "timid" and did not go far enough.
Mr King countered that every small change in the way the budget was configured had an impact elsewhere. and said it was a step towards making it fairer for businesses.
There were no speakers for the final item on the agenda, a small proposed rise in councillor allowances. According to the meeting agenda, the topic attracted two written submissions from members of the public, one in favour of the rise happening and the other against.
If approved at a later budget meeting this month, it will mean councillors will receive $31,444 per annum with the mayoral allowance set at $100,434. Both would also have superannuation of 9.5 per cent added to that.
Councillors will debate the budget, the rating and revenue plan, and councillor allowances on June 23.
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