COLAC Otway Shire Council’s next rate rise could be its lowest in a decade.
A council draft report has recommended an average rates and charges rise of 5.3 per cent across the shire for the 2014-15 financial year.
The rate rise would be the council’s lowest since 2004-5, when the rates and charges jumped by an average of 4.4 per cent.
Average rates and charges bills have since fluctuated between 5.4 per cent in 2005-6 and 11.8 per cent in 2006-7.
The proposed rate rise will mean an average $1694 rates and charges bill from 2013-14 would increase to $1784.
But community activist Alan Billing said the average figure was misleading because rates would actually rise by seven per cent if people excluded the municipal and waste collection charges from the calculation.
“The main issue is that because they include the garbage charge as one of the charges – that’s actually dropped which is a positive – but it only applies to people who have access to the garbage service,” he said.
“Very few rural people have access to the garbage service.
“In my view, they should separate rates from charges. The way they present it is accurate, however it doesn’t present an accurate message to the community.”
Councillors will today discuss the council’s draft budget and vote on whether to release the document for public comment.
The draft budget includes a $1.1-million loan to pay for the Bluewater Fitness Centre redevelopment cost blow-out.
“The aim will be to reduce this amount to $1 million at the time the funds are required,” the report said.
The draft budget predicts the council will end the 2014-15 year with a surplus of $2.85 million.
“In the current environment, council can ill afford to rely on both state and federal government capital grants to fund council’s operations,” the report said.
“This budget maintains the drive to reduce that reliance and to move forward towards a truly sustainable future for council operations.”
The council will add two extra staff if the budget passes without changes in June.
One of the new workers would help the council’s parks and gardens department maintain Colac and district’s public open spaces, while the other new employee would be an apprentice mechanic to reduce the workload of existing council staff.
Councillors will debate the draft document at a special council meeting at Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural Centre today from 3pm.