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Wodonga Council releases draft budget with zero rate rise

18 May, 2020

Wodonga Council’s draft budget for 2020-2021 includes a zero rate rise as the city and our people recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This step will see nearly $1 million cut from the budget with savings made through operational changes.

It includes an allowance for the increased hardship measures, including deferred rate payments and rent relief for council tenants, expected following COVID-19.

The initial impact to the council of the pandemic is more than $200,000 with the full costs to be determined in the months ahead.

Wodonga Mayor Cr Anna Speedie said the draft budget reflected the need to support the community following a challenging start to 2020 as well as continuing to deliver key capital projects that will help drive the economy through recovery.

“Our No.1 priority with this budget is how we can continue to support our community as we recover from the effect of the bushfires in the North East and then the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cr Speedie said.

“A zero rate rise is one we can do that in a really tangible way, making savings in areas where can while also ensuring that we continue to deliver key services and projects for our community.

“It’s important we continue to invest in capital projects that will create opportunities for economic and jobs growth through this challenging time.”

The capital works program for 2020-2021 will be $23.5 million including $5.8 million for renewing our community assets. There is also $10 million in carryover projects in the draft budget.

Assets continue to be well-managed and renewals fully funded now and in the long-term capital plan.

There is also $550,000 in operating projects including tree planting, playground maintenance, signage and shade shelters.

Key capital projects include:

  • The library-gallery redevelopment;
  • The commencement of Baranduda Fields;
  • A CBD bike hub and end of trip facilities;
  • Extension of the solar lighting on the city’s path network;
  • The regional cricket hub car park; and,
  • A new cycle path on Huon Creek Rd.

There is also allocation for several projects which are subject to funding applications including the next stage of the Belvoir Park playground; Kelly Park LED lighting upgrade; Birallee Park outdoor cricket nets, second netball court and lighting; and, a new pavilion at Les Cheesley Oval.

For the eighth consecutive year, there are no new borrowings and the council’s indebtedness rating is now at low risk, under the Auditor-General’s measure of debt risk.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions, identified savings have been made in the events area with several major events not going ahead in 2020 including Children’s Fair, the Red Carpet Youth Awards award dinner, Fridays on My Mind and Senior Celebrations.

The council will continue working with the Red Carpet committee to design an alternate online program for this year.

Bonegilla Migrant Experience will also reduce to opening three days a week.

The cross-border festival Upstream, which attracted more than 16,000 people over the four days of the inaugural event, will proceed in 2021 as restrictions allow, with staff beginning planning for next year’s festival.

Cr Speedie encouraged members of the community to have their say on the draft budget and the updated Council Plan.

A virtual community forum will be held on Monday, June 1 at 6pm to present the budget to the community with details on the council’s website and social media.

The draft budget documents include the updated Council Plan for year 4 as well as the Strategic Resource Plan.

More information - including all the budget documents and ways to have your say - is available at makewodongayours.com.au

The community can make an appointment to discuss any of the documents with someone from the council by phoning (02) 6022 9300.

Submissions in regard to the budget must be received by 5pm on Wednesday, June 17, and should be marked Draft Budget 2020-2021 either in writing or emailed to makewodongayours@wodonga.vic.gov.au. Councillors will hear submissions on Monday, June 22 with the budget due to be adopted at the June council meeting on June 29.