Mitchell Shire Council passes 2022-23 budget

Budget adopted: Rate increases kept in line with the 1.75 per cent state cap despite an increase in garbage charges. Photo by Max Stainkamph

Mitchell Shire councillors have given their unanimous support to the 2022-23 budget.

Adopted at the May 16 council meeting, the budget will see average rates and charges increase throughout Mitchell Shire in line with the state government’s 1.75 per cent rate cap.

Since 2016, Victorian councils have been subject to an annual cap on how much they can increase rates and municipal charges across their municipality. This does not mean that household rates are capped but contains the average increase.

From the money raised from general, vacant, agricultural, commercial and sub-divisional land, Mitchell Shire Council is set to net an extra $2.1 million in the next financial year.

In order to stay within the rate cap, the municipal charge was lowered, resulting in an annual fee of $241.95 in the next financial year for ratepayers.

However, Mitchell land owners will notice a four per cent increase in the garbage charge, from $473 to $492, for their regular garbage service. The garbage charge is excluded from the rate cap.

Council employee costs were forecast to increase by $3.68 million. This accounts for annual increases in the council’s enterprise bargaining agreement, funding for 14 new roles across the council and a shift from expenditure on labour hire organisations.

Mitchell Shire councillors drew attention to the significant expansion in the council’s capital work program, which after a pandemic-interrupted year is increasing by almost 87 per cent to $75.15 million. This includes $17.16 million that was carried over from the past financial year.

Almost 25 per cent ($15.1 million) has been allocated for roads, footpaths and cycleways.

Cr Rhonda Sanderson said population growth was driving the need for this investment.

“Our population is expected to double from about 50,000 to just under 100,000 within the next 10 years and to about 170,000 within 20 years,” she said.

“There are things people need and we are struggling because of the growth to meet that ... but we need to be mindful to be financially responsible.”

The importance of striking a balance between supporting growth and monitoring spending was also addressed by Cr David Lowe.

“I think that it is a remarkable achievement and that the staff have managed to put together such a comprehensive and exciting document,” he said.

“There is a lot of money spent here and it’s been spent carefully and in a considerate manner.”

While supportive of the budget, Cr Fiona Stevens drew attention to what impact council’s projects were having on “climate control”.

She said she wanted to see council’s climate control works “become effective in reality ... not just talking about it, not just making policies, but actually seeing it come to fruition”.

Cr Stevens also shared her concern about “carry forwards” from one budget to the next.

“We must get our carry forwards reduced, what we are passing on each year,” she said.

“It is becoming unmanageable and it impacts greatly on what new projects we’re able to bring into our works.”

The quarterly financial report was also tabled at the meeting, with council reporting a current operating surplus of $310,000.