Corowa gets double hit as Abbott's grants are cut

Mayor Fred Longmire says Corowa Council has tried its best to get funding and now it’s time to get on with a more modest upgrade without federal help. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Mayor Fred Longmire says Corowa Council has tried its best to get funding and now it’s time to get on with a more modest upgrade without federal help. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

A DOUBLE whammy of last-minute federal funding changes is expected to rip $3.5 million from Corowa Council’s finances over the next 10 years.

The change has caused immediate problems for planning next year’s $26.9 million budget — with the council also still waiting to hear from NSW whether it can raise general rates 7 per cent a year for four years.

The federal moves have forced a recalculation of the budget to include the council’s first operating deficit.

But staff hoped they can trim the mooted “loss” of $87,900 as the year proceeds.

First, the federal government decided to scrap indexation of the federal assistance grants to all local councils, costing Corowa $87,641 in 2014-15.

Secondly, the government has reduced Roads to Recovery funds by 11.8 per cent in NSW and this will stay fixed for four years — costing the shire $77,000 next year and about $386,500 over the five-year project.

To compensate, the council plans to introduce a $45 waste levy on every rate notice and a water pricing structure with a 50 per cent cut in the access charge for residential properties to $100 offset by increased water use charges based on consumption levels.

The council had projected a $366,000 loss for its waste facilities at Corowa, Mulwala and Howlong, but the $45 levy will recoup a large part of the expense.

The council will learn early next month whether its application for a 7 per cent special rate variation on general rates will be successful, or if it must stick to the state rate peg which is set at 2.3 per cent.

The difference would be $208,646 in the first year. 

Meanwhile, average residential rates are set to rise in Corowa from $371.31 to $397.46, Howlong from $400.28 to $416.67 and Mulwala from $644.12 to $694.89.

Corowa ratepayers pay $400 less than the state average and $200 less than like-sized shires.

The capital works budget includes $325,000 for saleyards upgrades, $400,000 for more work in Melbourne Street, Mulwala and $1 million shared around sporting grounds, parks and gardens upgrades.

The council approved $150,000 towards buying Lake Mulwala foreshore land at 18-22 Melbourne Street from the state government subject to the community raising $200,000.

General manager Chris Gillard said the rate increases and waste levy would equate to a $2 per week increase a week in most cases.

“The deficit is not a big deal,” he said.

“It is simply giving back some of the $22 million we’ve got sitting in the bank.”

DOWNSIZING FOR COROWA SALEYARDS JOB

DOWNSIZING FOR COROWA SALEYARDS JOB

COROWA Council has conceded defeat in the battle to secure federal government funding for its saleyards upgrade.

The council yesterday agreed to push on with smaller scale improvements to the saleyards which are on track to turnover more than 700,000 sheep by June 30 and already generated more than $50 million in sales.

Corowa has been lobbying for $1.4 million from the federal government to match its $1.3 million contribution for the last four years.

The council budget handed down yesterday included $325,000 for new pens and ramps and improvements to mitigate workplace health and safety issues.

The dramatically reduced figure will prevent the council from taking out a loan to fund the improvements.

It has also passed up the opportunity to purchase some adjoining land for future possible expansion.

The latest works are scheduled to be completed by October with no major additional improvements to be undertaken for the next five years.

Corowa mayor Fred Longmire said the chances of federal funding had vanished.

“We’ve tried as best we can to get the funding,” he said.

“We’ve stood by our word to upgrade the facility as best as we can.

“Everyone is more than happy about how we are going about it.”

The scaled-back approach comes after the recent revelation Wodonga’s replacement saleyards could also cater for sheep sales in the future.

Cr Longmire and general manager Chris Gillard praised the contribution of staff members, David Coppolino, Rod Lavis and David Carroll, in coming up with the revised upgrade.

“It is important that the council recognises and congratulates Mr Coppolino, Mr Lavis and Mr Carroll for their ingenuity and professionalism in the development of a concept that achieves excellent outcomes,” Mr Gillard said.

“We are delighted to say the project is proceeding.

“Work will be finished sometime in September-October.

“It will be a solid return on investment when completed.”

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