Horsham College redevelopment: Education Minister tours school

EDUCATION Minister Martin Dixon has refused to say if the Horsham College redevelopment will be funded in this year’s state budget.

Mr Dixon visited Horsham on Wednesday and toured the school grounds with the college’s acting principal Graeme Holmes and Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty.

He said the prolonged campaign to try to get funding for the school had not gone unnoticed.

“There’s a lot of need around the state and Horsham has a good case. They’ve been patient, and they’ve really driven their need really, really hard, led by Hugh Delahunty,” he said.

“One thing that’s been very noticeable about the campaign for funding for the school has been the fact that the whole community has been involved.”

“One thing that’s been very noticeable about the campaign for funding for the school has been the fact that the whole community has been involved.” - Education Minister Martin Dixon

It is the second time the minister has visited the ailing school.

In 2012 he conceded the school had been neglected, but the 2012 and 2013 state budgets did not provide the $20 million required for a rebuild.

“I wanted to come back and just refresh my memory of the needs of the community and Horsham,” Mr Dixon said. 

“We’re coming up to budget time now and we’re looking at our priorities and the funding that’s available.’’

Mr Dixon said Mr Delahunty was constantly reminding him that Horsham College should remain at the forefront of education funding calculations.

“We’re literally going through our budget deliberations now and that’s why it’s been important for me to be up here around that time when we’re making those decisions to refresh my memory and my understanding of the needs of the school,” he said.

Despite the college missing out in the three state budgets since he became Education Minister, Mr Dixon blamed the previous Labor government for the lack of money.

“It’s very difficult, we’ve got 1600 schools across the state and we’re left with a lot of schools that were promised money by the previous government and the money was never delivered,” he said.

Asked to give an indication whether the school could expect good news in May when the budget was released, Mr Dixon said deliberations were ongoing.

“I know that Horsham is a high priority and we’re making those decisions at this time,” he said.

Last year, the college needed emergency repairs to prevent ceilings from collapsing in 14 classrooms, offices and corridors in the H and M wings.

Mr Dixon said the government had given almost $300,000 to the college for the repairs.

“Horsham is one of a number of schools across the state that has had massive maintenance needs but we had an independent audit done of all Victorian schools and found that we’d inherited a $420 million maintenance backlog,” he said.

Horsham College school council president Rowan Smith welcomed the minister’s visit, but remained cautious about the budget.

“I think every visit to the college is a step forward because they get to physically see what the conditions of the building are,” he said.

“The language from the minister was positive, but the cold hard reality is that we don’t know much more than we knew before they came.”

Mr Smith admitted it would be devastating to be overlooked for a fourth consecutive budget.

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