Rates cover shortfall

Jane Emerick
The lowest state government funding in Victoria will push up Surf Coast Shire rates five per cent next year, according to officers and councillors.
They pointed the finger at State Government after announcing a 7.2 per cent increase this week.
Torquay councillor Dean Webster said Surf Coast drew the least government funding for “large rural councils” in Victoria.
He said the state’s Grants Commission calculation scheme to allocate Commonwealth cash for councils did not recognise absentee landowners or rapidly growing populations, putting Surf Coast at the bottom of the list for funding.
Fifty per cent of the shire’s property owners lived elsewhere and the scheme also failed to recognise rental properties when calculating funding, Cr Webster said.
Shire corporate services director Stephen Wall said the system “penalised” Surf Coast.
“Every comparison shows we are one to two million dollars worse off than comparative councils,” Mr Wall said.
“If you related that back to rate increases, that’s five to 10 per cent of rate revenue we are not getting.”
Mr Wall said grants would increase two per cent next year but the population would rise four per cent, leaving a funding shortfall.
“With a lot of community services, the demand continues to increase but the level of grant funding doesn’t match that demand,” he said.
“At the end of the day, when those funding shortfalls happen, the ratepayer makes up the difference.”
Shire chief executive officer Peter Bollen expected funding for day care and maternal and child health care funding to decrease under the state’s Grants Commission scheme.
Ratepayers would have to pay the shortfall for services.
“We’re obliged under the funding agreement to provide those services regardless of the level of government input,” Mr Bollen said.
“We’re maintaining the base level of services and anything in addition to that is highly unlikely given the circumstances.”
Mayor Rose Hodge said the shire was still in strong financial health thanks to “excellent management”.
She said bigticket budget items included road works, purchase of land for a proposed civic precinct, works at Jan Juc oval and droughtproofing measures for parks and reserves.

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