Council's rates share

GANNAWARRA Shire Council will retain its differential rating strategy throughout the duration of its current councillor term.

Following on from community criticism that led to council scrapping plans to implement a universal rateable strategy across its four land classification sectors by 2020/21, the 2018/19 Draft Budget includes a commitment for the current structure to remain in place until at least 2020.

Released on Wednesday, the draft document forecasts rates will increase on average between 1.25 per cent for residential landowners and 4.62 per cent for dryland farm landowners during the coming financial year.

Council was able to reduce the cents per capital improved value figure used across all five rateable sectors – residential, commercial/industrial, irrigated farmland, dryland farmland, and cultural/recreational – to offset increases in property valuations.

"Last year we heard our community, we listened and we made an appropriate budget as such," Gannawarra mayor, Cr Brian Gibson said.

"Our rating strategy was that we would continue to have two differentials, but we would try and draw them a little closer together.

"Unfortunately this year with the valuations that came back, if we had continued down that path the farmers – both irrigation and dryland – would have seen their rates increase by a considerable amount."

Tourism is a key feature of the 47-page document, with the development of the Koondrook Nature Based Tourism Hub, upgrades to Koondrook Caravan Park's roads and drainage, development of forest trails at Koondrook and Cohuna and improvements to waterfront access in both towns highlights.

"This is part of a strategic goal to bring more tourists to the area, but we can't bring them in if we don't have the facilities," Cr Gibson said.

"I heard this week that the Murray region itself had 5.8 million visitors last year, so we want to get a fair portion of them visiting the municipality."

These projects form part of council's $11.066 million capital works program, of which $2.352 million relates to projects carried over from 2017/18.

Around $7.714 million of this amount will come from council's funds, with external support making up the remaining $3.352 million.

Overall, the budget predicts $12.591 million will be raised through rates and charges, which matches the 2.25 per cent increase cap that all municipalities must adhere to as part of the State Government's Fair Go Rates System, with a projected surplus of $3.299 million to be achieved.

People wishing to have their say on the draft budget can submit their views to council from now to Friday, May 25.

It is anticipated the final version of the draft will be approved on Wednesday, June 27.

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