City of Unley 2018/19 Budget ready for Public Input.

The City of Unley tomorrow night will consider and endorse the draft of the 2018/19 Budget for public input. You will then have an opportunity to review the presented projects and their impact on funding requirements.

It will be your chance to influence 2108/19 budget, the rates you will be paying, and what services you will receive for this. It is indeed your chance to show the new State Government that you would prefer to influence our budget rather than allow another tier of Government (with no empathy for your neighbourhood) do it for you.

Council is considering a rate increase of 2.5% resulting in new borrowings in the order of $5.277 m to deliver all proposed projects and maintain current service levels. Not yet included is any allowance for increased waste disposal costs on the 2018/19 Budget.

Not included is any impact resulting from China’s ban on foreign waste to determine how this will affect our recyclables contract. We are currently investigating the impact. I am not sure whether we will have enough information to include it tomorrow night. Once done though it will quantify any possible cost increases for the disposal of recyclables (yellow bin) so as to incorporate it in our final draft.

Community consultation on our 2018/19 Budget

Community consultation will occur between 26 April and 25 May 2018. It will include six (6) public meetings/community information sessions as shown below. Council will also receive submissions by visiting Council’s website (through Your Say Unley) or written submissions to PO Box 1, Unley 5061.

We will accept all submissions up until the close of business on 25 May 2018.

Location                                                      Date                                 Time

Goodwood Library                                        10 May                            10.30am – 11.30am

Clarence Park Community Centre            10 May                             6.30pm – 7.30pm

(How convenient for ratepayers residing in my Ward)

Unley Civic Centre                                        14 May                             6.30pm – 7.30pm

Living Choice Fisher Street                        17 May                             10.30am – 11.30am

Living Choice Fisher Street                        17 May                              6.00pm – 7.00pm

Unley Community Centre                         21 May                              10.00am- 11.00am

The Annual Community Plan which underpins the 2018/19 budget will be found on the Council website after the meeting. Highlights can be found in my separate blog which I expect to post on Tuesday.

To Cap Council Rates or not-that is the question.

As I sit down tonight and over the weekend to deliberate on the agenda of a special council meeting set for next Wednesday night that is the question I ponder. Whether there is a justification for an outside body to cap Council rates or not.

This meeting has been called outside our normal schedule of council meetings because it is that time of year again. The time when we start to consider our draft annual business plan and budget.

Goyder - Steven GriffithsThe time when media attention is focused on rate increases and curiously not annual business plans. It has come early this year with the private members bill by the Hon. Steven Griffiths on rate capping tabled in State Parliament.

We heard from politicians, from experts and the public itself.  There may be a reasonable argument for rate capping and it is appropriate that we have a discussion about it. Is the debate I ask focusing on the real issue though?

I suggest it is not so much rate increases and whether they are too great or not but the manner in which they (but more importantly) the annual business plan they represent are endorsed. The LGA have argued against a body such as ESCOSA overseeing rate increases and that the current realm of public consultation is better.

I am not convinced using ESCOSA is an economically viable approach to ensuring rates are kept in balance. Why? This adds yet another layer of bureaucracy that has to be paid for, probably via the rates. It will likely increase the cost to council too because now they will have to prepare an annual presentation to ESCOSA as well as the public. That is of course unless the bill seeks to exclude the public from the process.

Unlike assessing rate increases for power or water ESCOSA would have to assess each council’s program noting there are vast differences between councils, how they are run and the programs they provide for their own communities. To treat all councils otherwise with a generic rate increase would not recognise these differences. It may be well more than some councils need but place others in financial hardship, particularly over the long term.

Equally I question the LGA claim however that our communities are consulted. This can on the surface be challenged. In the 5 years I have been present to watch our own community consultation I have seen no more than 5 people attend the public forum we provide to allow the public to contribute. On one occasion there was only one. This is hardly public consultation and difficult I would suggest to defend.

Having said that a large portion of our annual budget will have been set by decisions made by council in the months and meetings and indeed years gone by. Many of the projects being included in the current budget will have had large public consultation prior to being endorsed for implementation and prior to them being considered in a budgetary process. So arguably there has been prior consultation albeit on a project per project basis and not with consideration of how do we pay for it or which do we give priority to.

When an annual plan is put to the public whether to one or hundreds or thousands my experience is that there is no choice, no opportunity to prioritise. This should be given some thought by the local government industry. Provide choice with evidence of how much each initiative or project affects the rates and we would then have a considered input from the public from which councillors can then make decisions rather than them have sole prerogative on the priorities.