Wodonga stays the course with 4.75% rate rise

WODONGA ratepayers face a 4.75 per cent rate rise next year as the city prepares to spend $15.4 million on its next capital works program.

By raising more than $37 million in general rates and garbage charges, the council will charge its 17,600 ratepayers an average $2143.

It means an average $1920 bill for the 15,000 residential ratepayers.

Total operating revenue is forecast to be $68.1 million but the budget predicts a $6.2 million surplus on that amount by mid-next year.

They were the key features in a 2014-15 draft budget endorsed at last night’s meeting with few surprises.

The city’s forecast debt for 2014-15 remains steady at about $30 million, just down on the $32 million forecast for this financial year.

The rate rise of 4.75 per cent is similar to that imposed last year.

But it’s much less than the 7 per cent rise of 2012.

The downward trend is in keeping with the council’s forecasts, which provide for further 4.75 per cent rises through to 2016-17.

After the meeting, Cr Wangman said while rate rises were “always difficult”, he believed ratepayers wereenthusiastic about the changes in the city.

Cr Wangman pointed to the ongoing development of work in the city centre, such as the Mann shopping centre and nearby roadworks, as evidence that “people can see some good” coming from their rates.

The $15 million capital works program is roughly broken down into three allocations of $5 million: one for the central business district, one for maintenance of infrastructure and assets such as roads, and one for other developments in the community.

There is $364,000 for the Bonegilla Welcome Centre.

Other items include $280,000 for the final stage of the James Scott Memorial Skate Park; $467,000 to expand Jamieson Court Preschool; and $750,000 for Logic infrastructure.

There are no new borrowings, but there is an unused $3 million loan listed for the 2013-14 budget.

That will be rolled forward for use in 2014-15 if required and forms part of the $9 million the council intends to borrow between now and 2017.

Cr Wangman said the debt figure was manageable, the land asset at Logic something of an insurance policy.

“Should we sell it all today at the purchase price, we would extinguish that debt,” Cr Wangman said.

“We know we’ll need to take up more borrowings, but should we sell a block of land there, we won’t need to.”

The council first decided to sell Logic when Cr Wangman was mayor in 2008 and land in the 600-hectare site is being sold lot-by-lot.

Cr Wangman said attracting investment was the key to driving down debt, especially with the works well under way and the Mann project a cornerstone.

It was for private companies to decide “when to put their money in”, but he was confident it would roll in.

“I’m not frightened by investors having to take up the argument with their own boards,” he said.

The draft budget is available to view online or at the council’s Hovell Street offices, and submissions can be made until June 16.