Budget gets okay – City of Ballarat council meeting briefs

June 29, 2022 BY

Future ratepayers: The City of Ballarat’s littlest residents are the focus of a recently approved early years policy. Photo: FILE

DURING their regular meeting on Wednesday, 22 July, City of Ballarat councillors adopted the 2022/23 budget.

Following more than six months of community engagement, the City responded to 42 submissions with with three amendments included in the document.

City of Ballarat mayor Cr Daniel Moloney commended municipality’s level of community engagement, which started in November.

“I don’t think we’ve actually gone through such a thorough process in my six years as a councillor,” he said.

“With our community’s participation and also council’s commitment to sustainable budgeting and responsible financial management, we see a budget focused on strong capital investment at the same time as protecting our natural environment.”

Changes to the budget include the rescheduling of footpaths works, rates offsets and the potential for additional grants funding.


Rates rise official

With the budget adopted, council implemented an average rate increase of 1.75 per cent in keeping with the State Government’s rate capping policy.

CEO Evan King said the increase on municipal rates is necessary to offset the devaluation of the city’s other sectors.

“We’ve seen a 26.9 per cent increase in residential property evaluation,” he said. “Commercial is at 7.6 per cent and industrial at 10.9 per cent. What we’re seeing there is a fairly significant distribution of rates.

Mr King said the decision to up the rates for homeowners was not made “light-heartedly.”

“We absolutely understand the impact that rate rises have particularly on those on fixed price incomes,” he said.

Cr Moloney said the increase is necessary to even out the city’s industrial and commercial rates.

“It’s awful that someone gets to bear the burden here. It’s falling partly to residents this time but we do need to address the pretty stark imbalance that we’ve seen develop over probably the past decade,” he said.


Asset Plan adopted

The Asset Plan 2022/32 was endorsed by council, which will inform maintenance priorities for the City’s facilities and infrastructure.

With $2 billion worth of assets, it is expected the municipality will spend more than $945 million over the decade on the plan.

The document takes a lifecycle approach to asset management, and Cr Belinda Coates said it represented steps towards “good practice.”

“We’re getting a really good picture of those assets and really planning for future wellbeing of the city too,” she said.

“It’s not just buildings and facilities. It’s parks and gardens and it’s imperative to our natural assets.

“Having a really evidence-based way to track those things to the life and how we renew and replace is really positive.”

Cr Peter Eddy said it was important for the municipality to know when to replace certain assets.

“We probably all are a bit scared of the retire word,” he said.

“There is a reality that we need to have a good plan that boasts building and facility structures that have lived their life.”


Caring for the future

Council took on board the Municipal Early Years Plan 2022/26 with an emphasis on supporting the health and wellbeing of Ballarat residents aged eight years and under.

This iteration is the fourth for the municipality, with the previous plan ending in 2018.

Cr Amy Johnson supported the plan, highlighting its encouragement of businesses to include child-friendly spaces.

“I have noticed since COVID that a lot of businesses are less child friendly. You go to the doctor’s, there’s no more toys,” she said.

“Most children probably feel less welcome now than they were previously, and I think that the days of believing are lesser than simply because they’re younger than us are coming to an end.”

She also said it was integral that children have access to material basics, particularly those impacted by family violence and disadvantaged environments.

“We want to encourage our children to be passionate. To be great citizens. They’re all worthy goals but these kids basically have to survive first,” she said.

“As in do they have access to material basics, are they being loved and cared for? I really think we need to work harder as a city to do more for those kids.”


Waiting to grow

Council received a quarterly update on the City’s proposal to rezone Ballarat’s Northern, Western and North-Western growth areas.

In February, council applied for approval from Richard Wynne, then Minister for Planning, to authorise the amendment of the Ballarat Planning Scheme.

The Minister’s approval will allow for the development of a Growth Areas Framework Plan which informs the sequencing of development for the City’s growth regions.

Although noting the progress made, Cr Ben Taylor said it was important to keep the process moving.

“We don’t want this to lag too far five months from election, where this time next year nothing’s happened,” he said.

“We need to move on. The work’s been submitted and it would be great to get this done so we can actually grow across the city.”