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Council releases proposed budget for 2021-2022

Autumn sunrise in Yapeen.

A new $400,000 Welcome to Country cultural installation to recognise the contemporary and historic lives of the Dja Dja Wurrung indigenous people is a highlight of Mount Alexander Shire Council’s proposed budget for 2021-2022.

Wednesday 21 April 2021

A new $400,000 Welcome to Country cultural installation to recognise the contemporary and historic lives of the Dja Dja Wurrung indigenous people is a highlight of Mount Alexander Shire Council’s proposed budget for 2021-2022.

The draft budget was presented to Council for review at its meeting on Tuesday 20 April, prior to being placed on public exhibition.

It proposes to cap average property rate increases at 1.5 per cent across the shire and to freeze waste collection charges for the next financial year at current rates.

Of a planned total spend of $39.61 million for the financial year, $10.21 million is earmarked for new and ongoing capital works to create footpaths, renew and upgrade recreation facilities, improve streetscapes and improve flood protection among other things.

Mayor of Mount Alexander Shire Tony Cordy said the budget invests solidly in improving local assets and local government services for the community while remaining responsible in the current rate-capped environment set by the Victorian Government.

“We’re investing significantly in enhancing recreational opportunities right across the shire from adding lighting to some sporting reserves, improving amenity at local pools and adding a footpath along part of Campbells Creek Fryers Road,” Mayor Cordy said.

“We’re also continuing to invest in projects that will make roads and bridges safer, shore up flood protection for Castlemaine, Campbells Creek and Newstead and tackle important waste issues including capping the Castlemaine landfill.

“Our commitment to enhancing streetscapes continues and we’ll embark on an important shopfront study in Maldon to understand the heritage significance of shopfronts to ensure their heritage value is preserved as part of $2 million earmarked this financial year for the ongoing work to revitalise Maldon’s street.

“I’m also pleased that Council has undertaken to create a landmark Welcome to Country installation at the historic Market Building in Castlemaine. This is important because it will recognise the culture and contemporary and historic lives of our local Dja Dja Wurrung Indigenous people and aligns with our 2017-2021 Council Plan to be innovative, creative and connected.
“Most importantly we have a good spread of capital works planned right across the shire.”

Mayor Cordy said Council’s overall position remained reasonably healthy for a rural council despite the challenges posed by the rate-capping environment, the significant number of community assets that must be maintained and increasing expectations of the role and responsibilities of local government.

Borrowings level are low and cash holdings are enough to cover monies owed, short and long term.

Council is responsible for maintaining and renewing more than $373 million worth of essential community assets including about 1,500km of local roads, 242 bridges and culverts, 248 community buildings, five pools, two wastewater facilities and an extensive stormwater and drainage system.
“Funding to maintain and renew these assets is provided by more than 12,000 rate-paying assessments.

“The challenge for rural councils like ours, compared with metropolitan councils, is that a low number of ratepayers are responsible for a significant number of community assets.

“Rates comprise more than 50 per cent of our income,” he said.

Mayor Cordy said the rate cap set by the State Government applies to all local governments in Victoria, unless exemptions are granted. Council did not seek an exemption for the 2021/2022 year.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Council agreed to share the proposed budget for public feedback.

Copies can be viewed at Castlemaine’s Civic Centre, the Castlemaine Library or on Council’s website at www.mountalexander.vic.gov.au/budget.

Submissions must be in writing and lodged by 5.00pm on Wednesday 19 May, 2021. Please address submissions titled 2021/22 Budget to the Chief Executive Officer, Mount Alexander Shire Council, PO Box 185, Castlemaine VIC 3450 or email info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au.

Submitters will have the opportunity to address their submissions at a Special Meeting of Council on May 25. Council will seek to adopt the budget at the Council Meeting in June.

Budget at a glance

Big ticket items in the planned capital works program include:

  • Continuing Maldon’s streetscape revitalisation project. The first year of the project required undergrounding of powerlines. When this is complete, Council will move to the second stage of the project which comprises road and streetscape works of $2 million, in addition to a Maldon shopfront study.
  • A 3D digital “Welcome to Country” installation at the Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre to celebrate and acknowledge local Indigenous heritage and culture
  • A new footpath along part of Campbells Creek-Fryers Road
  • Further works on the Castlemaine and Campbells Creek flood levee banks (Phase 3), subject to receiving funding from the Federal Government, and finalising preparations for upgrading Newstead’s levee bank
  • Widening Fogarty’s Gap Road between Woodbrook and Leversha Roads to make it safer, subject to receiving funds from the Federal Government’s Blackspot Program
  • Progressing Castlemaine’s Camp Reserve Master Plan
  • Designing works for female-friendly change facilities at the Bill Woodfull Recreation Reserve in Maldon
  • Improvements to local recreations reserves including replacing lighting at Newstead, a new fence at Graces Flat Recreation Reserve in Fryerstown and a BBQ at Metcalfe.
  • Improving small town streetscapes (Stage 2) in Campbell’s Creek, Elphinstone and Taradale, and
  • Continuing to replace and upgrade public recycling bins in a number of places across the shire.

Priority project proposed in the budget include:

  • Commencing works to cap and rehabilitate cells at the Castlemaine landfill – approximately $1.5 million is expected to be spent in the first year of this multi-year project.
  • A shopfront study in Maldon, funded by the Maldon Streetscape project - $40,000.
  • Reviewing and updating Council’s Domestic Wastewater Management Plan, as required by law, to provide advice and conditions for property development in non-sewered areas - $30,000
  • Hosting the Mount Alexander Shire Business Awards to foster and showcase local business excellence - $15,000.

Other new and continuing initiatives to help fulfil Council’s vision of an innovative, creative and connected community include:

  • Continuing highly valued and quality programs in aged care and disability services through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and the State Government’s Home and Community Care Program
  • Delivering the FReeZa and Engage! programs for young people aged 12 to 25 years
  • Supporting our Early Years Programs and providing specialist nurses to work with babies, young children and their parents and carers
  • Ongoing support for our LGBTQI and Indigenous communities
  • Further investment in street tree planting, and
  • Supporting community lunch programs in Maldon, Newstead and Castlemaine.

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