Unlike other levels of government, local councils are required to place their draft budgets on exhibition to enable comment from the public, prior to the budget being formally considered by Council. This evening Council formally discussed the 2010/2011 Budget, with Councillors resolving to adopt the budget as per the draft that was released last month.
Adopting a budget is never an easy decision and unfortunately Maroondah City Council has been operating with a deficit for twelve out of the past 14 years, including a staggering loss of over $8 million in the 1998/1999 financial year and $1.8 million in the 2004/2005 year. Like any organisation, delivering consecutive losses is not sustainable and diminishes the ability to invest in infrastructure to meet current and future needs.
Maroondah has long required community groups to demonstrate financial sustainability and Council should follow this same advice. As a Council there is a need to deliver operational surpluses to enable investment in community infrastructure and much needed facilities, but this is only possible if Council operates with financial stability.
As a consequence Council had to make the difficult decision of increasing rates by 9.8%, or approximately $1.88 per week, to provide a sustainable foundation for the City of the Maroondah. While this may appear to be large increase in percentage terms, Maroondah has the seventh lowest rates when compared with Victoria’s 79 councils. Furthermore, a review of operations will be undertaken over the 2010/2011 financial year to control cost pressures into the future.
Importantly, the 2010/2011 Budget reverses almost a decade and a half of Council living beyond its means by restoring financial stability, through delivering an operational surplus from the 2012/13 financial year. As a result Council will be in a position to invest in much needed community facilities and will reduce pressures on rates in future years.
The first facility to be improved is the Ringwood Aquatic Centre, which has reached the end of its functional life and as a consequence has faced declining patronage and rising maintenance costs. The 2010/2011 Budget facilitates the construction of a new multi-purpose Maroondah Aquatic and Leisure Centre to be operational by the end of 2013. The Budget supports this vision through the funding of detailed design work and community consultation for the proposed facility, which equates to 1.1% of the overall rating strategy.
The adoption of the 2010/2011 Budget has not been an easy decision and it has been one of the most stressful experiences during my time as Mayor. Ultimately its adoption was the right choice to make, as it ensures a sustainable future for the City of Maroondah by delivering a Council that can live within its means while investing in much needed community infrastructure.. I applaud the five of my Council colleagues who supported the Budget, particularly since it will reduce rating pressures in future years, resulting in lower costs and better facilities for our community.