There appears to be some confusion regarding whether the rates solution as proposed by the Horsham Rural City Council-appointed independent Rates Strategy Advisory Committee was known to council prior to the committee being tasked to do the research.
I can say that the option proposed by the committee was specifically known to council on the evening of April 10 via email from a council director to all councillors and council directors at 7.10pm.
The substance of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation case – a 2.25 per cent increase by sector rather than across the board – was provided to us on March 26 at a community meeting at Kalkee, chaired by the mayor.
At a later time that option and variations thereof were put to council by myself and Councillor David Grimble in an endeavour to comply with our legislative responsibility to ensure that our rating strategy is fair and equitable. It is history that council voted our options down and 92 per cent of the rate rise was borne by five per cent of the ratepayers – in this case, the rural sector.
Our neighbouring councils, with Northern Grampians shire leading the way, were able to arrive at solutions in partnership with their ratepayers.
I agree with Cr Grimble that significant ratepayer funds and council officer time have been consumed to arrive at a known solution. As one member of the independent Ratepayer Strategy Advisory Group said to council: “If you were doing your job, we would not have been necessary.”
The ramification of this going forward are that rate increases in the next cycle are going to add cumulatively to unnecessary rate increases from the current cycle. The rate burden will also impact the residential sector.
Council exists to represent the community. One solution that the community may wish to consider is to question council expenditure to reduce the rate burden. Cr Grimble and I did this and put forward the savings that achieved a zero rate increase. Again this was rejected by council.
I thank the independent Rates Advisory Committee for their efforts.
John Robinson, councillor, Horsham Rural City
It was terrific to see that the community’s efforts to provide decent cancer treatment services in the Wimmera has finally come to fruition with the commencement of operations at the new Wimmera Cancer Centre.
Unfortunately the role of the Wimmera Health Care Group Foundation in making this project a reality seems to be regularly overlooked. The foundation is a separate entity to the hospital, although it only exists to initiate or support projects at the Horsham and Dimboola campuses of the Wimmera Health Care Group.
The foundation is well on its way to having a capital fund of $2 million by 2020, of which only the interest earned can be spent by the independent Board of Trustees on projects.
The capital is principally derived from bequests, donations, regular giving by a range of individuals and organisations from across the district, and from fundraising undertaken by the very active and committed Friends of the Foundation Group.
The foundation, through its chairman the late Don Johns, was integral to the initiation of the centre.
The foundation now has a total commitment of $420,000 to the project, which is second only in size to those contributions received from government.
As a former Trustee, I believe it is important these facts are acknowledged – in particular on behalf of the many people who work for, donate towards, and support the foundation on a continuing and regular basis. I want to promote and encourage this support as it will enable the ongoing growth of the foundation, which in turn will make many other worthwhile, future projects a reality.
Tony Schneider, Dimboola