A TWO per cent rate rise has been proposed in Greater Bendigo, as the city plans for a $193 million operating budget.
A draft budget to be considered by the council tonight includes the extension of financial hardship measures until June 30, 2021.
Struggling commercial tenants could apply to have their rents halved through to December 31, 2020, if the draft budget was adopted.
Changes were proposed for the city's Community Grants Program to assist community groups and organisations providing 'vital services'.
The draft also included a six per cent hike in the general waste charge, which the city attributed to increased state government landfill charges.
The city said the increase constituted an additional $8.55 for 140-litre bins.
Collection costs associated with recycling and organics would increase by one per cent.
The city budgeted to extend its organics collection service to Axedale, Heathcote, Elmore and Goorong late in 2020.
Almost $11m drains from budgets
The City of Greater Bendigo is bracing for a $6.6m hit to income next financial year, bringing estimated losses related to COVID-19 to almost $11m in 18 months.
A loss of more than $4m was attributed to the global pandemic in the city's forecasting for the remainder of 2019/20.
The city recognised a need for its next budget to be flexible, as the full economic effects of COVID-19 were realised.
Income losses of $6.6m were forecast for 2020/21, attributed to recovery measures and reduced revenue associated with restrictions.
The city was expecting to receive about $10m of rates payments late, affecting finances over the next two financial years.
Attracting visitors, events and exhibitions back to Bendigo when it became safe to do so was key to the city's plans to bounce back from COVID-19.
It proposed to put more than $500,000 aside to help achieve that aim.
More than $350,000 would be budgeted towards bringing new exhibitions to the Bendigo Art Gallery.
Funding was also proposed for City of Gastronomy initiatives.
The City of Greater Bendigo proposed to change and even waive some fees specific to local businesses.
Targeted industries included food and hospitality, health and accommodation.
The draft budget also included 'community resilience activity activities' such as developing and implementing a virtual community hub.
Further spend planned for mall
The City of Greater Bendigo proposes to invest $500,000 in a shade shelter for Hargreaves Mall.
The project was a key feature of a $43.5m capital works investment in the city's draft budget.
Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said the shade shelter was in response to feedback received about the mall and the city centre while developing the Bendigo City Centre Plan.
"Investing in the city centre has been a key priority for council throughout its term and this project will make a real difference in the usability of the mall," she said.
"Protecting people from the summer sun as well as rain will make it more inviting, support events year-round and encourage more people to visit the mall more often."
$43.5m investment outlined
THE City of Greater Bendigo proposes to advance plans for a pavilion at Kennington's Harry Trott Oval, as well as the first stage of its master plan for Wolstencroft Reserve, next financial year.
A draft budget to be considered at tonight's council meeting contains $1.5 million for the new pavilion, as well as a further $1.8 million the city expects to receive from government grants to assist with the project.
The city estimates the total cost of the "hugely anticipated project" at $4.2 million over two years.
It also plans to spend $975,000 on the first stage of the Wolstencroft Reserve Master Plan in 2020/21.
City of Greater Bendigo corporate performance director Andrew Cooney said the first stage of works included enhancements to the reserve and construction of some play equipment.
New footpaths were part of the key capital works projects, with $1.5m proposed to be allocated towards works.
Grant Street in Goornong and Hospital Street in Heathcote were highlighted as sites for new footpaths.
The city also proposed to replace footpaths in Heathcote's High Street and Cardwell Street in Elmore.
It sought to reconstruct a section of Axedale-Goornong Road and undertake $2.85m of gravel road re-sheeting throughout the municipality.
Huntly's Grevillea Road play space was listed for renewal. The city also proposed to fund the detailed design of the Heathcote Civic Precinct.
Other projects listed in a $43.5m capital works program included the second stage of the Bendigo Town Hall renewal, as well as work on the Bendigo Botanic Gardens central hub.