Federation Council’s annual budget, for 2017/18, was formally adopted by council’s Administrator Mike Eden at council’s monthly meeting on June 29.
As foreshadowed in its draft budget, and primarily based on land valuations which showed a 23 percent increase in farm land values, council limited the increase in rates to 14.9 percent.
Unusually, rural rates increased have increased above - and well above - the level of residential rates, many in the order of 7 percent and 1.5 percent for former Corowa and Urana Shires respectively, following a full analysis of valuations and rate increases.
“Council received many submissions from farmers regarding the 14 percent increase in rates, particularly farmers in the southern end of the council area,” Mr Eden told the Yarrawonga Chronicle.
“But taking into account land values that went up over 20 percent and by as much as 28 percent, rate increases are reasonable. Farmers are able to claim a tax deduction for their rates when they’re running a business.
“Even after the increases, the rates for the former Corowa Shire properties are lower than many other places such as Berrigan, Narrandera, Albury and Murrumbidgee.
“The capital works budget is $15 million which will primarily be spent on roads. I believe the budget is fair for the whole of the Federation Council area.”
Other issues raised in the overall approximate 60 submissions included requests for:
• Improvements to street lighting
• Improvements to footpaths
• Expansion of kerb and gutter
• Cemetery works
• Speed control/weight limits on roads
• Support for a heated pool in Corowa
• Improved drainage
• Equity in rating
• Development costs
• Peak waste collection periods
As a result of these submissions the following actions were proposed by council’s Director Finance and Organisation Development Kim Parker who said some actions are already underway:
Review of street lighting across the council area
Preparation of an updated pedestrian mobility plan
Audit of all kerb and channel to assess condition and upgrade requirements
Cemetery capacity and standards are being reviewed
Finalisation of Corowa Swimming Pool review
Drainage strategy updated and funded in the budget
Additional skips will be placed in Mulwala over the peak holiday season
Council continue to place a major emphasis on funding the road network both sealed and gravel
Review of signage is included in the proposed budget.
Mr Parker elaborated on the 2017-2018 General Rates. “There has been a concern expressed by a number of farmland property owners that the proposed increase in rates charged on the Farmland Category is unfair and not returned to those affected in equivalent services,” he said.
“However, if the proposed income from Farmland rates (All) of $3,396,886 is compared to just the proposed net expenditure on rural sealed and unsealed roads and other items of $3,680,551 (net of depreciation), the Farmland category property owners are receiving over $280,000 in direct return over and above the rates paid.
“This level of additional expenditure for 2017-2018 provides evidence of the commitment of the Federation Council Administrator to the importance of the rural sector to this council.
“Further, there has been a concern expressed by a number of Mulwala residents relating to the impact of faster valuation growth over the levels of other Federation centres of population valuations and whether the rates raised is fair and returned to those affected in equivalent services.
“The administrator has also considered these concerns and reviewed the considerable extra expenditure items for the Mulwala area proposed for the 2017-2018 year and found that the proposed ‘rates in the dollar’ is reasonable.
“The administrator also commented that over the medium to longer term for General, Water and Sewerage rates and charges levied, the focus in the allocation of budgets to particular projects should be primarily based on needs of the particular areas.”
This needs focus is determined from time to time and is derived from the primary strategic planning document of council, the Community Strategic Business Plans, as part of the Integrated Planning and Reporting process required to be followed by all NSW councils.
* Major road works in the 2017/18 Capital Works Program include $830,000 for Back Berrigan Road, $400,000 for Freyers Road, $700,000 for Howlong-Burrumbuttock Road, and $610,000 for Federation Way and Boree Creek to Spraydon Road.
In addition, there are reseals, resheeting, heavy patching and table drain works to be undertaken throughout the Federation Council area.
The budget supports resheeting and drainage works of $1.3 million to be completed on rural unsealed roads alone in 2017/18.