Rates should have been frozen this year, rather than increased by 2 per cent, to help residents and business owners, an Indigo councillor has argued.
Indigo Council this week adopted its 2020-21 budget, which mayor Jenny O'Connor described as one of the most challenging in its history.
Cr James Trenery told this week's council meeting that although council staff helped individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, more could have been done.
"My concerns are with putting the rates up by $352,000, or 2 per cent," he said.
"I don't think it was investigated well enough when you look at smaller shires than can manage to hold the rates for the ratepayers.
"We talk about how hard it's going to be for business owners, we talk about how hard it's going to be for general ratepayers, and I think that could have been investigated a little bit more."
He said he was also concerned that council spending had not been reduced enough.
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Deputy mayor Sophie Price said she shared his concerns about council spending, but was happy with the "tangible outcomes" people would see.
"We've done a pretty good job to strike the right balance here in terms of each different councillors' priorities as measured against the organisation," she said.
"It's a really great budget and I think we'll look back at what a fantastic job the organisation did at a time like this, working from home."
The budget features a predicted a $45,000 surplus and $31.26 million in spending.
The $12.55 million in capital works includes $2.5 million to build a Chiltern Community Hub and $500,000 towards Beechworth's Courthouse Kelly Trials Experience project from federal government grants.
Cr O'Connor said the budget was created without a lot of certainty and relied on assumptions around the predicted loss of income as a result of coronavirus.
"As a small rural council, we rely heavily on grant funding, which is critically important at this time when so many businesses and individuals are hurting as a result of the fires and COVID-19," she said.
"We've set aside some additional funds to assist with business recovery. This will go towards initiatives to encourage visitors back into our towns once it is safe to do so.
"This is a budget that will be constantly reviewed and adjusted accordingly throughout the next 12 months.
"We will continue to keep our community informed and we ask for your understanding and patience as we all work through these unprecedented times."
Extra money needed in abnormal year
A push to get extra funding for Destination Rutherglen, which runs the town's visitor information centre, has fallen just short.
Destination Rutherglen wanted the annual funding increased by $46,000 from $144,000 to $190,000 because 2020 was not a normal year.
Cr Bernard Gaffney raised the issue at this week's council meeting, saying the future of the visitor information centre was in doubt because the current funding allocation "won't run that VIC", and it was less than the council paid to run the Beechworth centre.
"I think this part of the budget is not fair and it's not balanced," he said.
A vote from councillors failed 4-3 and the council will instead provide a one-off payment of $20,000 to Destination Rutherglen, to be targeted at the recovery from the coronavirus fallout.
"In this current year, we do recognise, as is council's own budget, a very challenging period ahead," the council's chief executive Trevor Ierino said.
"It is a challenging year ahead and the gift shop sales may not be as high as they would normally be."