AT the Open Hearing for verbal submissions of the South Gippsland Shire Budget and Council Plan on Wednesday May 15, fifteen people spoke to their submissions including Megan Knight, Ralph Gallagher and Gillian Upton.
Alyson Skinner pointed out that the hearing was being streamed live so as to be as transparent as possible.
The day began with an impassioned plea from Gillian Upton to keep Venus Bay land and not sell it off.
“My beef with the budget, as Jerry Maguire put it, is show me da money,” she said. “Why can’t I see the budget for each major service?”
She thanked the Council officers who took the time to provide her with this information and said she could now see why it was not transparent in the budget.
“Please do the right thing and please listen. Selling off the farm is dumb,” she said.
She then went on to point out that not once has Council made a profit from the caravan parks and that ratepayers are bearing a huge financial burden.
Megan Knight also had an issue with the caravan parks.
“The 16/17 budget had an annual income for the two parks of $801,607 against operating expenditure of $950,773 plus legal costs of $41,193. Clearly income comes nowhere near expenditure,” she said. “I call on the council to make a decision to release the parks to private lessees which would at least guarantee some income.”
She then said she could not find details of how much is paid to contract staff, consultants etc. and that despite highly publicised restructuring initiatives there is an increase in FTE and an increase of 2.2% in costs.
“In relation to free RV camping -an oxymoron if ever I heard one- it is clear to even casual observers that many campers are relying on Council provided facilities. The only person who gets it free is the camper. We the ratepayers are paying for their holiday,” said Megan.
Ralph Gallagher made many good points including how Council has reduced the rate burden on lower valued residential properties while higher valued properties have increased. “It is not clear what the numbers show. What were the inequities?” he said.
When he asked the Councillors why we don’t see change, Alyson Skinner responded by asking how Council could do it better?
“We only had seventeen submission,” she said. “We have spent hours and hours in here trying to work on all the issues to look at the whole picture. It is hard to engage the community,”
The Councillors present showed real interest in what being said and took the time to ask pertinent questions and to also give information to some of the speakers who were perhaps unaware that there were answers to their questions available to them.
On Wednesday May 24 Council will consider and make a determination on all submissions received.