Moonee Valley Council will consider the 2020/21 draft budget tonight and vote on whether to put it forward for community consultation and submissions.
The budget proposed by council officers can be found here.
The brief report to the council notes that MVCC faces a “deteriorating financial sustainability position in the longer term”.
While the budget forecasts operating surpluses over the next four years, these are considered “not enough” and “continual work is required” restore MVCC’s financial wellbeing.
The drivers behind these financial warnings appear to be multi-pronged and include the impact of COVID-19, as well as the substantial capital works program initiated by council over the past few years.
COVID-19 has impacted revenue through the suspension of services and some payments. There has also been a freeze on increases to all council fees. Council has put $5 million towards hardship measures and community support.
The rate increase is also capped at 2 percent, rather than 2.4 percent, and council says this will cause a further loss of $5 million over several years.
Some points of interest in what appears to be a very conservative budget (after last year’s flirtation with an extensive capital works program), include:
- Very little additional expenditure on measures to address climate change. Some residents including myself have submitted questions to MVCC for the meeting tonight to clarify the funding targeting climate change (noting the pandemic has shifted the focus from the climate emergency declared six months ago and felt acutely over summer).
- $29 million towards the completion of the East Keilor Leisure Centre. Last year’s budget included $28 million. This totals the expected $57 million for the completion of the project.
- $1.5 million for the detailed design works for the Flemington Hub and sports pavilion.
- Almost $1 million for Moonee Ponds Creek bridge at Vanberg Rd.
Other points of note are the proposed reduction in staff over the next four years. While last year’s budget proposed increasing staff numbers over the next three years, there has been a dramatic alteration to these forecasts – demonstrating the fragility and changeability of future projections.
While last year’s budget projected a small increase in staff numbers, this year’s forecast has revised figures to show a 10 per cent reduction in staff numbers over four years, at a small cost increase. The reason for this change is not clear.
There’s also some accounting variations that are unclear: last year’s cash asset forecasts were considerably less than this year’s forecasts, despite the statements in this year’s budget warning of deteriorating fiscal strength.
It seems expenditure on the environment has been less than forecast in last year’s budget. Of the $835,000 allocated to sustainability programs last year, the papers suggest only 80% ($676,000) will be spent (see below).
It’s also not clear what programs this item includes as it appears under the strategic objective of ‘Beautiful’ rather than ‘Green’ where environment programs might be expected to be housed. (I have sought clarification on this.)
Community members wishing to make submissions to the proposed budget can do throughout the month of May with the option of presenting submissions to Council on 16 June at 6pm (registration required) – although this may need to be managed remotely.