Six Hindmarsh Shire Council projects on chopping block after Federal Budget

HINDMARSH Shire Council has braced for spending cuts as a result of the Federal Budget.

Council released its draft budget on Wednesday.

Along with it was a shortlist of six initiatives that would end if changes to the Federal Government’s Local Government Financial Assistance Grants were implemented.

The Federal Budget outlined a three-year freeze on indexation of the grants, effective from July 1.

Council’s chief executive Tony Doyle said the implications could be significant, and council could be forced to cut back. His shortlist amounted to savings of more than $100,000.

“I believe it’s the appropriate financial response to the situation thrust upon us,” he said.

“It is incredibly disappointing to have to put this list to you.

“There are a couple of projects that I felt were particularly important.”

Items on the chopping block include a $20,000 plan to pilot free WiFi internet in Nhill’s central business district, and a $50,000 cut to council’s proposed investment in tourism. 

The full list was only circulated to councillors.

Mr Doyle said it comprised of ‘straight cash projects’, which did not involve council staffing or equipment.

Meanwhile, council increased rates by an average of six per cent to account for financial commitments such as infrastructure maintenance and rising insurance costs.

“It is incredibly disappointing to have to put this list to you.'' - Chief executive Tony Doyle

Municipal charges will remain unchanged, while kerbside collection charges will increase by five per cent.

“In view of the previous year’s rate increase, which affected residential properties to a greater extent than farming properties, it is proposed not to make any changes to the existing rate differential,” Mr Doyle said.

He said increasing general rates was the only mechanism available to council to cover rising costs.

“The problem is exacerbated by the cost shifting that occurs when federal and state governments transfer responsibilities to local government with insufficient funding or grants that don’t keep pace with delivery costs,” he said.

One in three ratepayers in Hindmarsh’s residential properties are pensioners.

“Because pensioners have limited disposable incomes, rate increases have a real impact on their ability to make ends meet,” the draft budget says.

“For this reason, Hindmarsh Shire Council wholeheartedly supports the Municipal Association of Victoria’s call for the State Government to increase the pensioner rate rebate to realistic levels.” 

Overall, Mr Doyle believed it was a well-balanced budget.

The document will be available for public inspection and submissions at council’s customer service centres for 28 days.

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