THE deadline is looming for the people of South Gippsland to exercise their democratic right and comment on what South Gippsland Shire Council has planned for the coming year – and beyond – and how it intends to pay for it.
By close of business today – Wednesday 29 May* – community members must submit in writing to Council any comments they wish to make on any or all of the following three crucial documents:
- Draft 2013-2017 Council Plan;
- Draft 2013-2014 Annual Plan;
- Proposed 2013-14 Budget (including Mayoral and Councillor allowances).
*Foster Community Online only received this article from the Mirror at 2:15pm Wednesday 29 May.
Anyone wishing to speak to their submission should indicate this in their letter. Submissions will be considered and representations from submitters will be heard at a Special Meeting of the Council to be held at 12 noon on Wednesday 12 June (the original date of 19 June has been changed to fit in with councillor commitments) in Council Chambers, Leongatha. The Local Government Act prevents anyone who has not made a written submission from having their view considered.
Since the details of the draft budget were first made public, anger has erupted in the community over the proposed 7.5 per cent rate rise in particular. A handful of people have made their views known in letters to the local press. At the time of writing, however, few had made a written submission to Council – and time is running out.
Foster farmer Malcolm Davies is among the few to have put in a written submission. In several letters to ‘The Mirror’ he has argued the case against the 7.5 per cent rate rise and made cost-saving suggestions.
In his first letter Mr Davies concentrated on the effect of the rate rise on farmers, who make up, of course, a sizeable proportion of the population of South Gippsland. “Farmers are tired of being cash cows for councils that seem to have no understanding of the realities facing rural communities,” he asserted. “Rate increases seem to happen without any consideration of the incomes of local farmers who, despite becoming more efficient in their practices, have little control over what happens beyond the farm gate. Furthermore, it is very difficult to find any evidence that the extra council income has achieved anything besides a blowout in the wages bill.”
Mr Davies went on to write that he was “taken aback at some of the costs we will be expected to carry next year”. He singled out for especial criticism the following “questionable imposts”:
- The employment of 257 full-time equivalent staff at an average wage of $84,000;
- last financial year $972,000 was spent on office/computer equipment and this year an additional $833,000 will be spent;
- allocation of $723,000 ($110,000 from federal government) for a toilet block and camp kitchen at Waratah Bay camping ground;
- rates income of $34 million anticipated to deliver a surplus of over $6 million. “Surely a surplus of such magnitude is inappropriate and untimely,” wrote Mr Davies.
Gary Napthine of Waratah North has also been sufficiently provoked by the draft budget and draft plans to write several letters to ‘The Mirror.’ He has examined council budgets going back to 1996 and he shares his findings in his letters. He urges ratepayers to draw their own conclusions, but he is clearly unimpressed by the rise in staff numbers and staff related costs.
In his letter to ‘The Mirror’ on May 15, Mr Napthine said he would like to see Council drop “some of these so-called services, especially those not related to roads and rubbish, reduce staff and staff related costs, reduce rates, and save ratepayers’ money”. He vented his spleen at recent council advertisements for a ‘Project Manager – Vision 2050’ to be employed at a salary of $98,376 p.a. “to inform the ratepayers what it’s going to be like in 2050″.
In addition to the letters he has sent to the local press, Mr Napthine plans to put in a written submission to Council and urges others to do likewise. “I would urge you to let the council and councillors know of your own conclusions,” he said.
The draft budget and plans can be viewed on the shire council website or at council offices in Leongatha.
Written submissions should be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Tim Tamlin and emailed to [email protected] or presented in person at Council’s Main Office, 9 Smith Street, Leongatha.