THE second on-line consultation through online engagement provider OurSay offered to ratepayers by South Gippsland Shire Council concluded this week. The results will help determine the draft Budget for 2015-2016 to go to the next – March 25 – meeting of Council.
It was last October that Council partnered with OurSay to undertake community consultation on a range of council activities over the following 12 months.
The first consultation focussed on the Budget for 2015-2016, seeking the community’s input on what they considered priorities and facilitating discussions about balancing those priorities with budgetary pressures.
The consultation resulted in 762 people registering to participate, with 98 ideas posted. The top ideas and priorities from the budget consultation were presented at two community workshops in November. These ideas included the future of the Foster and Mirboo North swimming pools, the reintroduction of a free green waste service, support for arts and culture, the development of an equestrian facility, and reducing rates.
Since then councillors have met with the originators of the top six ideas to examine the viability of each and the potential to allocate funding in the 2015-16 Budget.
The results so far can be viewed on line. Commentary on the feasibility of each of the top priorities is made in detail – too much detail to reproduce here, though it makes very interesting reading.
It is worth noting that a forecast is made of rate rises in coming years: “Council is drafting a budget that looks to have a 4.9 per cent General Rate rise next year, with a 3 per cent General Rate rise forecast from 2016-17 through to 2022-2023 and increasing to 4 per cent again in 2023/24. This is a budget that is proactively preparing for rate capping. It is being achieved by extensively reducing any expansion projects in the Capital works program and finding further productivity savings from across council services.” The on-line statement concludes: “Rigorous community debate is needed on what the community needs, wants and can afford as we head into these tighter fiscal years.”
Between February 25 and March 9 a second on-line consultation was held. Ratepayers were invited to complete a survey in which they numbered council functions in order of importance from 1 to 5.
Some respondents took up with alacrity the invitation to make a comment. Among the comments:
“Your survey questions were awful! Where was a question on running services more effectively and efficiently? So many services waste money e.g. morning tea for MOW volunteers. Where was a question on looking to trim admin overheads? Where was a question on do we need new council offices?” – Megan Knight.
“Charge car parking for visitors to popular destinations as per metropolitan car parking.” – GP.
“Councillors need to set a productivity agenda and senior staff need to meet it.” – Gabrielle Gloury.
“I would like to see a more efficiently running council staff – with an emphasis on performances, efficient decision-making and timely action. Rates are too high for the level of services provided. The survey questions do not reflect or acknowledge this requirement.” – Susan Davies.
For people unable to access the website, printed copies of the consultation have been placed at a number of locations across the shire, including Council’s main office reception at Leongatha, local libraries, Coal Creek and the Prom Country Visitor Information Centre at Foster.