|Cr Rachel Power, right, addressing the budget meeting.|
FIVE dollars was trimmed from each ratepayer’s bill for 2019-20 during the brief discussion of the Derwent Valley Council’s budget at last week’s special meeting in the New Norfolk Courthouse. Two alterations were made to the draft budget before it was unanimously approved with its 3.95% increase in the general rate.
In moving that the council adopt the Annual Plan for 2019-20, Councillor Martyn Evans proposed that a funding allocation for the New Norfolk High St Market be removed from the budget, and that the waste management levy be reduced from the recommended $60 charge to $55. This charge, now in its fourth year, is intended to cover the cost of eventually closing and rehabilitating the Peppermint Hill tip site and establishing a waste transfer station.
“Obviously the market is contracted out and I don’t think there needs to be a provision in the budget for $15,500,” Cr Evans said, adding that this represented a saving of almost $5 per rateable property and this should be passed on. “[The waste charge] was to be $60 per property, so moving it back to $55 … takes it back to what it was the year before last.”
Cr Evans said this would mean the waste charge had gone from $35 in its first year, to $55 and then $85, and now back to $55. “That’s a good result considering there is no plan on how we’re doing, and [how we’re] going to spend that money on the waste refuse site up there at Peppermint Hill,” Cr Evans said. “We need to know what we’re actually putting that money away for. We understand that there has been some estimates around $2 million but we need that plan to actually say that.”
Cr Julie Triffett seconded Cr Evans’ proposal and in the only other discussion Cr Rachel Power asked whether the savings from the market would balance out the lost income from the waste charge. Mayor Ben Shaw said this was difficult to estimate. “I think it’s about $10,000 difference, but essentially it won’t change the overall operating budget because it’s going to be added to a reserve.”
When put to the vote, Cr Evans’ alteration to the Annual Plan was approved unanimously. The market operator, deputy mayor Jessica Cosgrove, did not speak during the discussion of the Annual Plan and had declared a conflict of interest in the next agenda item which was the council’s 2019-20 Rates Resolution and Charges.
The six-minute long discussion of the annual plan was then followed by the rates and charges document for the next financial year, which was dealt with in less than three minutes. Cr Evans pointed out the changes that would be necessary to reflect his two alterations to the annual plan, and Cr Power asked about late payments.
“If we are going to be increasing late payment fees, what is the process to get to that point? People will be charged the extra 8.1% … if we’ve got people facing hardship is there a backup plan for those people?” Cr Power asked. A council officer responded that the council’s Rates and Charges Policy allowed for people in financial difficulty to make arrangements for a special payment plan.
Mayor Ben Shaw then asked about the process for dealing with overdue rates payments. “Do we actually contact the ratepayers and let them know … or do we actually just send them straight to collection?” A council officer responded: “Oh no, they definitely get reminder notices.”
Speaking from the chair after the passing of the Annual Report, Cr Shaw thanked the finance staff and everyone else who had contributed to the preparation of the budget. He said it had been a lengthy process with quite a few meetings and workshops.