WASTE fee surpluses will be clearly designated for rubbish-related activity under a new policy adopted by Wodonga Council on Monday night.
The reform follows a Victorian Ombudsman's investigation which criticised the council using income from the fee to cross subsidise other activities.
The council on Monday night flagged its second budget since the Ombudsman's report in April 2018 deemed the city had overcharged ratepayers by $18 million via the waste levy.
The draft finance plan proposes a drop in the waste management levy of $112 for the average ratepayer.
The council is proposing a rate rise of 2.5 per cent, which is the maximum permitted under the cap imposed by the state government.
Mayor Anna Speedie said she was proud of the budget, which is now out for feedback before its adoption.
"Yes we did follow the state recommendation of a 2.5 per cent rise, but in actual fact through the reduction of the waste management levy....the average rate rise is actually minus 2.58," she said.
"(That's) almost unheard of in any council."
Councillor Danny Lowe described the budget as fiscally responsible and said it would keep "downward pressure" on rates.
"The Ombudsman...gave us three years to reduce the impact of the waste levy and we've now done it in two, so we've done that with a year to spare," Cr Lowe said.
Deputy mayor Kat Bennett noted the waste management reserve policy also reflected the desire of the Ombudsman Deborah Glass for more transparency.
"This policy is above and beyond what we need to put in place, but for me that extra level of transparency or clarity is what is probably needed for our community right now," Cr Bennett said.
"I'm all for eliminating any grey areas and with everything that has happened with the waste management levy I think this is a really good area to do this, to align with the Ombudsman's recommendations 'when a ratepayer makes a contribution to a particular charge there needs to be no grey areas about exactly where this money is being spent'."
Under the policy any surplus or deficit generated in the financial year would be isolated in a reserve fund and used for waste matters such as a related project or reducing future charges.
Cr Speedie said it would remove ambiguity around the issue and highlight to the community what would be sitting in a fund.
Cr Lowe used the draft budget debate to argue for funding to complete a mountain bike track on Klinges Hill in the Hunchback complex in west Wodonga.
The track presently has a downhill run but no path to ascend which Cr Lowe says creates a safety hazard.
"We don't need people riding up a downhill track," Cr Lowe said.
"( I think) for safety reasons and...also tourism reasons that we should complete this track.
"There's no point having an 80 per cent complete track sitting there."
Meanwhile, Wodonga council whistleblower Charlie Mitchell has responded to the draft budget by saying rates are too high and the city should freeze rates for the next five years.
"Wodonga's current and continued adoption of the rate cap over the next 10 years will cement Wodonga as the highest rate charging council compared to other local and similar councils," Mr Mitchell said.