Macedon council adopts budget, environment plan

Rates for the average Macedon Ranges property owner will rise $50 after the council adopted its 2016-17 budget last Wednesday.

The budget included an average increase of 2.5 per cent in 2016-17, taking the average bill to $2069.

But final bills could fluctuate as 2016 is a revaluation year.

Controversial changes to neighbourhood house funding were scrapped as part of a series of minor amendments to the draft document.

Councillors reinstated $10,000 for the municipality’s neighbourhood houses, added $50,000 for stage one of a boardwalk footpath in Nursery Road, Macedon, and $30,000 for a detailed design to support grant applications for the New Gisborne Sports Fields project.

They also added $30,000 to investigate bicycle parking infrastructure following several budget submissions from cycling groups.

The budget remains a balanced one, with changes offset by significantly spending cuts on items such as extensive window replacements at the Gisborne office and a sister city agreement.

“It was very hard thing to do,” Cr Jennifer Anderson said.

“But we’ve tried to respond to submissions as best we could.”

Mayor Graham Hackett said the council had “fully intended” to reinstate its share of funding to neighbourhood houses, which recently warned there would have no choice but to increase charges or cut services.

Cr Russell Mowatt was among those who celebrated efforts to reduce debt while still carrying out significant capital works, with no new loans proposed for 2016-17.

“By this time next year, our loan balance will be $10.2 million,’’ he said.

“This is well under our own self-imposed limit of $14 million.

“At the end of our term, we will be leaving a debt level that is financially sustainable for a future council to work with.”

The budget will bring in $43.59 million in rates and charges to fund $80.5 million in total expenditure, with the remainder to come from other funding sources.

Capital works spending is expected to reach $23.50 million, similar to recent budgets, despite the reduced rates increase.

Councillors also approved a new environment strategy that will lead to the development of climate change and roadside management plans.

Upgrades to Kyneton saleyards will also be investigated after the adoption of a long-term plan developed after extensive consultation with producers, buyers and stock agents.

The Riddells Creek Street Festival and Macedon Ranges Sustainability Festival were among events funded under a new grants scheme.