By Melissa Meehan
RESIDENTS will foot the bill for Cardinia Shire’s spending spree in 2010/11, faced with another large rate rise in the draft budget.
The draft budget, now available for public comment, will see residents in the shire hit with a whopping 6.9 per cent increase.
Mayor Graeme Legge said the rise was necessary for the council to continue to provide quality facilities to the community and continue the council’s debt reduction strategy.
“At the same time, the council is aware of the potential impacts on our local community of the ongoing effects of the global economic crisis,” Cr Legge said.
“We have included in the budget a number of initiatives to assist residents impacted by uncertain employment prospects by continuing the $50 rebate scheme for ratepayers who are in receipt of the Newstart Allowance.”
The council will also provide the opportunity for flexible, interest-free repayment arrangements.
While the majority of councillors voted to send the draft budget out for comment, some councillors raised issues with the Draft Plan.
Councillor Collin Ross said for the second year in a row he would not support the budget because he believed the rate rise was excessive.
“The 6.9 per cent increase is right over the top, especially when times are tough,” Cr Ross said.
“People are struggling. I find that a 6.9 per cent increase would be too great a burden.”
But the major bone of contention at Monday night’s special meeting was an extra motion raised by Councillor Ed Chatwin that would see the discount rate for agricultural properties reduced.
“We are levying other parts of the community with an extra set of rates to cover the discount,” Cr Chatwin said.
“It is not necessary in this day and age.”
Bunyip Ward councillor Bill Pearson said he was disappointed that his colleague would move to make such an impact across the rural areas of the shire.
“These farmers may be asset rich, but they are income poor,” Cr Pearson said.
“By taking away this concession, it will not only affect farmers, but it will affect rural towns.”
He said it was important for the shire to support farmers during this difficult time considering the drought and the supermarket duopoly which was forcing produce prices down.
Councillor Stuart Halligan agreed.
“Living out in the swamp I see how hard farmers are doing,” he said.
“Our dairy farmers are doing it extremely hard, they are having to replace stock at a high cost.
“And reducing their discount by five per cent, while it doesn’t sound like much – the impact will be great.”
The motion to reduce the farming rate discount to 20 per cent for Agricultural Rate 1 properties and to four per cent for Agricultural Rate 2 properties was voted down by the majority of councillors. Copies of the draft budget papers can be downloaded from the council’s website at www.cardinia.vic.gov.au.
Residents are welcome to make submissions which will be considered at a special meeting of council on Tuesday 15 June at 7pm at the Henty Way council offices.
By Melissa Meehan