The Mirror News

Panel defers shire budget, rates, plan for second time

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council’s newly appointed panel of administrators has voted to defer adopting the municipality’s annual budget, rating strategy and council plan for one week to today, Wednesday July 31, 2019 to “provide … time for briefing”.

The panel’s three members, announced by Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek last Tuesday July 23, 2019, presided over their first open ordinary council meeting the very next day on Wednesday July 24, 2019.

The agenda for last Wednesday’s ordinary meeting included the 2019/2020 budget, the 2019/2022 rating strategy and the revised council plan for 2017/2021.

This is the second time these three important matters have been deferred, and for the same reason.

At the council’s open meeting held on Wednesday June 26, 2019 and the third day of her 90-day appointment as the council’s interim administrator, Julie Eisenbise said the three documents needed to be deferred to the July 24 meeting “to allow further investigation” and for more reports on them to be prepared by council staff. 

Ms Eisenbise is now the chair of the panel of administrators, after serving just over a third of the original 90-day interim administration period.

Her fellow administrators on the panel are former McMillan now Monash MHR Christian Zahra AM and former RMIT Council member Rick Brown.

The panel will perform as South Gippsland Shire Council until a poll to return community-elected councillors to local government is held in October 2021.

Ordinarily the Victorian Local Government Act 1989requires local councils to adopt their annual budgets and to submit them to the State Government by June 30 each year.

Minister Somyurek granted South Gippsland Shire a two-month extension for the lodgement of its 2019/2020 budget after the Victorian Government dismissed the elected council on June 19, 2019.

Last Wednesday Ms Eisenbise moved that the budget, rating strategy and revised council plan be deferred “to provide our two new administrators [Mr Zahra and Mr Brown] time to be briefed.

“I acknowledge that these are complex matters and they should be subject to the closest consideration,” she said.

“Thanks to the [shire] staff for the reports [on the budget, rating strategy and revised council plan] prepared since the last open meeting in June.”

Ms Eisenbise’s motion was seconded by Mr Brown and the motion to defer these three matters was carried unanimously after Mr Zahra gave his assent, too.

All three administrators had a 10-centimetre-high pile of closely typed double-sided documents in front of them being the paperwork associated with this financial year’s budget, the rating strategy and the revised council plan, a part of their homework for the next seven days.

Other items on last Wednesday’s agenda were also deferred for one week, including the awarding of the 2019/2020 capital works program’s contracts under the chief executive officer’s delegation, and the contract to supply and deliver premixed concrete to the shire.

This year’s capital works program includes still-to-be-approved allocations such as a $469,698 contribution towards the Agnes Falls improvements project, and $4,850,000 for extensions for either end of the Great Southern Rail Trail. The Wednesday July 24, 2019 meeting was then adjourned to be continued at 11 am on Wednesday July 31, 2019 in the council chambers in Michael Place, Leongatha.

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