Final tweak to council budget rejected

Mayor Jennifer Anderson has come under fire after proposing changes to Macedon Ranges council’s 2015-16 budget just moments before its adoption.

But other councillors lashed out at her critics, accusing them of having short memories after endorsing alterations in previous years.

Cr Anderson sought to make six amendments, including the allocation of $15,000 to prepare a bike safety campaign and $35,000 for a more thorough services review.

She also proposed cutting funding to the council’s sister city relationship with Tokai, Japan, by $6000 to $12,000, not allocating $25,000 to a rural living review, and halving money used to promote the Macedon Ranges to $9000.

‘‘These are minor budget alterations that don’t change the bottom line,’’ Cr Anderson said.

Others, including Cr John Letchford, slammed the mayor for setting up an ‘‘ambush’’.

‘‘Where is the openness, transparency and accountability on this?,’’ Cr Letchford asked.

‘‘This is making decisions on the run.’’

Cr Sally Piper, who with Cr Russell Mowatt supported the mayor’s changes, said she considered the strident opposition ‘‘absolutely hilarious’’ after budgetary performances by councillors in the chamber in past years.

‘‘Anyone can bring an amended motion to the chamber,’’ Cr Piper said. ‘‘We’re facing a massive debt … we’re facing rate capping.

‘‘If we don’t look at our budget sensibly … we might as well kiss some of these things goodbye.’’

Cr Anderson’s motion was defeated 3-5.

The original budget, including capital works of $54 million, was eventually passed by a vote of 6-2, with councillors Anderson and Piper opposing. The budget will result in an average rates increase of 4.8 per cent, which equates to an additional $84 for a median house valued at $445,000.