Rate rise, wages 'excessive'

Three City of Greater Bendigo councillors are expected to oppose the formal adoption of the 2014-15 Budget, with one saying a six per cent rate rise and $1 million increase in staff wages was excessive. 

The draft Budget was passed in May despite heated opposition from councillors Peter Cox, Helen Leach and Elise Chapman.

Cr Cox backed his comments on Monday, saying the rate rise and decision to employ more staff were inappropriate. 

"This is out of step with the community," he said. 

"My personal opinion is that we, as a council, haven't tried hard enough to reduce expenditure and I believe there are real possibilities of savings without reducing services."

He noted lower rate increases in Geelong and Melbourne city, saying "if they can do it, why can't we". 

"There are alternatives - like don't employ so many staff, look at waste as resource management, and think of other options for car parking at the new theatre," Cr Cox said. 

However councillors James Williams, Mark Weragoda, Rod Campbell, Barry Lyons and Rod Fyffe argued a lesser rise of four per cent would halt progress in the city.

Almost 40 public submissions were received regarding the Budget, with rate levels, staff numbers and the need for protected bike lanes in built-up areas all raised. 

Included for decision is $62.2 million for capital and major works to enhance the liveability of greater Bendigo.

Projects include stage one of the Canterbury Park redevelopment, completing the 1000-seat Ulumbarra Theatre, works at the Bendigo Botanic Gardens and further planning for the Bendigo Indoor Aquatic Leisure and Wellbeing Centre.

The report also recommends raising council’s income by $6.9 million to $93.4 million through rates and garbage and recycling charges. 

In response to rates, the report notes the additional revenue is needed to maintain service delivery, renew assets and undertake the development of new assets to meet the needs of a growing city. 

The report also notes that staff numbers are required to meet growing demand for services.

The municipal charge will be discontinued to assist owners of lower valued properties.

Crs Chapman and Leach declined to comment.


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