By Peter Kennedy

THE City of Greater Bendigo has unveiled a no frills, back to basics draft budget for 2019/20 highlighted by spending on a broad range of programs and services and a maximum 2.5 per cent rate increase.

The increase is in line with state government regulations, and the city has opted not to seek any variation to the cap, believing in its ability to accommodate increasing demand and costs without impacting on service delivery in the next 12 months. However, in a briefing provided to local media ahead of last night’s council meeting, mayor Margaret O’Rourke and chief executive officer Craig Niemann said the constrained financial environment would put pressure on the city’s financial sustainability and its capacity to continue to deliver services and maintain infrastructure for the community.

Senior council officers were also keen to point out that given this year was a revaluation year, ratepayers should expect the 2.5 per cent increase to be applied to the Capital Improved Value of their property, meaning some residents face larger increases, and others possible reductions in their rates bill as a result of fluctuating property prices across the municipality.

Property valuations now occur annually across the state in line with government requirements, under the auspices of Valuer-General Victoria.

Cr O’Rourke said the draft budget would raise $197 million in revenue from rates, charges, statutory and other fees, grants from other levels of government and interest, while $190m will be allocated to operational expenditure.

“Our vision is to create the world’s most liveable community, and this year’s budget reflects feedback from our residents concerning smaller but important projects that will benefit the community in their daily lives.”

The draft budget includes $42.8m for capital works that reflects feedback from residents about smaller and important projects for the community.

Almost $900,000 has been assigned to work on the GovHub project to assist plans to relocate city staff ahead of the commencement of demolition works, with the state government expected to contribute $500,000 this year.

The development of detailed designs for a new resource recovery centre and transfer facility is also included, with the expected costs not revealed, and there will be ongoing restoration works at other landfill sites.

Bendigo’s urban fringes fare well in the draft budget, with major drainage works at West Marong, a roundabout upgrade at Jackass Flat, footpath works in Maiden Gully, ongoing investigations into flood mitigation along Bendigo Creek, the expansion of the Huntly Early Learning Centre and extensive road sealing works all included.

Submissions to the proposed budget close on Friday, May 17, and are best submitted online at www.bendigo.vic.gov.au/budget