Squabble forces 1% rate rise for Wangaratta

THE fallout from Wangaratta Council’s dramatic sacking last year by the state government has contributed to a higher than intended rate slug for next financial year.

The city’s administrators have proposed a 6 per cent rise — 1 per cent higher than the figure forecasted a year ago.

But the three-member team of commissioners running the city, led by Ailsa Fox, has committed to starting work on a saleyards upgrade, on hold since the former council was dismissed in September.

Notes released ahead of a special meeting tomorrow night to adopt the draft budget, point the finger squarely at the previous council for the 6 per cent rate rise.

“This level allows us to recover from previously incurred governance costs, maintain service levels, fund a small number of initiatives and continue to allocate more funds to renew the municipality’s infrastructure,” Ms Fox said.

“The rate increase is 1 per cent greater than foreshadowed in the council’s strategic resource plan.”

Rates are also expected to rise 6 per cent for each of the two following years including 2016-17 when local government elections are due.

These forecast rises are in stark contrast to the promises made by the former council to reduce rates.

The budget notes reveal $2 million was spent on the governance crisis, including the costs of acting directors, legal bills and councillor conduct panels.

The council has committed to the roofing of the saleyards in the new financial year at a cost of $3.4 million.

A year ago, the council agreed to borrow $1.7 million for the roofing project and said it hoped to source another $500,000 for the work from the federal or state government.

Federal government funding isn’t on the Coalition government’s radar and the state government has made no commitment.

Its budget will be handed down this week.

Other capital works planned in the next financial year are improvements to the City Oval tennis courts ($752,000), completion of the Wangaratta Indoor Sports and Aquatic Centre co-generation project ($388,000), Whorouly Football-Netball Club changerooms ($365,000) and Everton Hall upgrade ($330,000).

Almost $22 million will be raised by general rates next year.