Councils lobby for more funding

April 19, 2017

Moira Shire Council is part of a bid for additional rural funding.

Moira Shire Council is part of a multi-region rural bid to access increased funding for projects to help beat the constraints of ratecapping.

The council is one of 38 banding together under the Rural Councils Victoria banner, which developed a submission to the 2017-18 Victorian State Budget, which is expected to be handed down in May.

The councils are calling for the Victorian Government to provide an annual $150million cash injection to rural councils in a Rural Communities Support Fund, to allow them to fund and develop additional large-scale projects which may not be prioritised under council annual budget plans due to the effects of ratecapping.

Moira Shire Mayor Gary Cleveland said council’s upcoming budget highlighted a need for urgent funding of key services.

After considerations in the budget process for essential council funds and programs, sometimes there may not be much money left in the pot for additional, non-urgent projects, Cr Cleveland said.

‘‘There will be special projects which are fundamental to the health and safety of Moira Shire residents, which will require additional funding that we can’t cater for through our own resources,’’ he said.

‘‘Moira has also inherited a number of ageing buildings which require maintenance and upkeep — we’re five shires rolled into one — and we have a number of facilities we have to consider with usage from different groups and maintain to a certain level of community expectation.’’

Moira Shire Council is hoping to secure a multi-million dollar slice of the funding for several projects across the shire, including a $1.3million soccer precinct development at Cobram Apex Reserve, part of a larger redevelopment project for the Cobram Showgrounds area.

Such a project is expected to attract visitors to the area with tourism providers set to benefit, as well as providing facilities for players where there currently are none.

Another project listed is a $2.5million Yarrawonga Library development, as well as a new community meeting space/CFA building in Wilby.

Funding contributions to roadside weed spraying, library services and school crossings are also being lobbied for.

Cr Cleveland said rural councils had unique funding requirements, and many were under pressure to deliver more with less money.

‘‘Rural councils, compared to our metropolitan counterparts, have different spending concerns, such as weed and pest control,’’ he said.

‘‘We also have a large number of roads to maintain in the Moira Shire, there’s 4000km of sealed and unsealed roads in our region.’’

Cr Cleveland said being part of Rural Councils Victoria allowed them to work together to advocate for their ratepayers.

‘‘It allows councils in rural areas to work together to address issues and support each other so we can continue to provide the same support, amenities and services to people in the shire.’’

Cr Cleveland said council respected the Victorian Government’s position on rate-capping and was thankful for the funding it had received in the past to help deliver a number of great projects.

In 2013-14, Moira Shire received $2.76million, in 2014-15 $3.017million, in 2015-16 $364864 and in 2016-17 it received $422108.

The decline was as a result of government cutbacks, including axing the Country Roads and Bridges funding and the freeze in Financial Assistance Grants.

Rural Councils Victoria was meeting with the Victorian Government in the lead-up to the budget to push its case.

Council is also in the process of developing its budget for the next financial year, which is expected to be released for public comment soon.

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