The Mirror News

Commissioner defers Shire budget, rates, plan

 

• Managing Director of SGW, Philippe du Plessis, President FCA, Deborah Harris, Secretary FCA, Graeme Alexander and Manager of Pricing and Communitiy SGW, Ros Griggs.

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council’s administrator Julie Eisenbise has deferred the municipality’s 2019/2020 annual budget, its 2019/2022 rating strategy and its revised 2017/2021 council plan until the next ordinary meeting on Wednesday July 24, 2019.

On the third day of her new Victorian Government-appointed job replacing the dismissed council, Ms Eisenbise opened her first ordinary council meeting in the council chambers at Leongatha at 2 pm on Wednesday June 26, 2019.

She single-handedly amended, moved and carried the meeting agenda’s relevant recommendations to allow more time for briefings from council staff on these complex matters.

The Victorian Local Government Act 1989requires councils to submit their annual budgets to the State Government by June 30 each year.

Ms Eisenbise noted that a request for a month’s extension for South Gippsland’s annual budget had already been sent to and granted by Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek.

She told the meeting that the annual budget needed to be deferred, “to allow further investigation” and “for a full review to be conducted.”

Acting chief executive officer Brian Sword has been asked to prepare and bring reports on the annual budget, the rating strategy and the revised council plan to the July 24 meeting for “final adoption”.

A number of other agenda items were also rolled over for determination on July 24, including a report on the proposed 2019/2022 rating strategy’s new extractive industries rate differential category.

Ms Eisenbise noted the council staff’s report on the proposed 2019/2020 annual budget’s options in achieving a zero per cent rate rise and referred it to the next meeting for determination.

The June 26, 2019 ordinary meeting’s 159-page agenda, including a public question time, was dealt with in less than 40 minutes, with the open part of the meeting closing at 2.39 pm.

During the meeting Ms Eisenbise said that the council would be lead by a three-member panel chosen by the Local Government Minister once the initial 90-day interim administration period was over.

The panel will be in charge of the shire’s affairs until elections are held in October 2021.

“Soon there will be more than one person at the table,” she said. “We need debate and the council needs three administrators to talk very closely with the community and to listen.”

Ms Eisenbise told the meeting that she had been a mayor and a councillor [on Manningham City Council] and that she had held a position in the Municipal Association of Victoria as well as serving on a number of other boards.

Up until her appointment as the council’s administrator, Ms Eisenbise was one of the three-member Victorian Grants Commission, distributing federal grants to the state’s 79 councils, with about $10 million coming to South Gippsland.

“I have every intention to be out and about among the community,” she said.

“It’s part of my role as administrator and it’s important to be talking [with local people] about the community’s needs and wants.

“I am available to talk at every opportunity that you give me.”

                  SGW high on FCA agenda

Foster Community Association warmly welcomed Manager of Pricing and Community, Ros Griggs and Managing Director of South Gippsland Water, Philippe du Plessis to our June Meeting.  All present appreciated the opportunity to share a conversation where we could all learn about each other’s perspective.  

Philippe explained his job as the manager of the business that one of his key performance indicators was to make the best economic decisions for the business.  SGW had recognised that there were other important social indicators, such as the effect on Foster and alternative locations and had asked for an economic assessment of a relocation from Foster to Leongatha or Wonthaggi.  The main concern we raised at the time was that the social, community and longer-term factors are not being given enough importance.  At the meeting, a copy of the report was provided for our examination and upon first impressions of the report, the FCA believes there are areas of concern in assumptions and reasoning.  We will take the time to review this document and report back to the community further.  We continue to believe that the immediate and long term effects for Foster will be negative and far from minor.

Philippe expressed empathy with the Foster Community and some frustration that he did not have access to a suitable tool for balancing the economic against social factors.   He undertook to look into such measures.

Numerous members asked questions and raised issues.  Josephine Mackenzie articulated her experience over many years of meetings including when she was a Councillor at Camberwell and through the lengthy amalgamation discussions in the 1980’s.  

She reflected, “The amount of time spent on the economics, the dollar costs was out of all proportion to the time spent on social costs as in ‘How will this affect us (or them)?’  When the social costs are measured and form 50% of the decision making we will have good governance”.

The FCA will continue to work alongside the Foster Chamber of Commerce as both groups ensure we articulate the facts of the implications of SGW relocating the main offices from Foster.  The FCA are keen to work with SGW and Philippe gave us an assurance he would report back to the FCA within a few weeks following his further research into measuring the social effects of the SGW rebuilding here in Foster and what actions we could take to secure SGW in Foster.  The FCA support the Foster Chamber of Commerce’s call for those also concerned to write to The Honourable Lisa Neville, Victoria Minister for Water, Level 17/8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne, Victoria 3002 or via email lisa.neville@parliament.vic.gov.au

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