Funding shortfall cause for concern in the Macedon Ranges

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Councils face massive funding shortfalls and could be forced to cut back on school crossings, libraries and SES facilities unless the state government honours its partnerships, a Macedon Ranges councillor claims.

Cr Russell Mowatt said the council foots most of the bills for critical services the state government expects councils to deliver.

And he wants the government to pay its fair share.

School crossing supervision began as a joint 50:50 funding arrangement in 1975, but council now funds 80 per cent of these services; public libraries are now 83 per cent funded by Macedon Ranges ratepayers, he said.

Cr Mowatt has called on the council to request a review of its funding levels – he also wants the original 50:50 funding agreements honoured, now and into the future.

“The state government imposes a rate cap on all Victorian councils,” he said.

“The reality of rate capping [is that] most councils will need to assess whether they will be able to continue to deliver services that are a state responsibility.

“The evidence shows that, over time, the state government’s share of the costs has reduced. This is a massive funding shortfall.”

Cr Mowatt said that in cases such as country roads and bridges, and local infrastructure programs, funding has dried up completely.

“Cost shifting is simply not sustainable,” he said.

“Keeping rates low for communities is ideal, but only if it doesn’t come at the cost of losing vital services.

“Either we increase rates to keep funding these important services as state funding diminishes, or we face misdirected community anger if we reduce them,” Cr Mowatt said.

“We have struggled to maintain our own expanding emergency service responsibilities, and for years we have voiced concerns about the state government not fully funding SES units,” he said.

“SES units should not be relying on councils, fundraisers and … goodwill.”

The state government recently agreed to increase funding to maternal and child health services by almost 16 per cent, effectively restoring the 50:50 funding partnership for that service, Cr Mowatt said.