Residents are upset over unequal suburb funding following release of 2015 Hobson’s Bay budget outlined a five per cent rate increase.
Hobson’s Bay councillors are currently in debate over whether this budget is appropriate.
Member of Hobson’s Bay resident Association Anne Palmer believes the budget is both excessive and is biased based on suburb. “It’s about power”, Palmer said. “Each MP wants the best for their ward and the ones that are willing to fight get the funding”.
The document, released April 29 is open for public comment and details how the council plans to spend their $113,950,000 of annual income over the next financial year. This year 76 per cent will be sourced from residential rates, and an additional $7.3 Million will be sourced from loan borrowings to help accelerate the $23 million capital works program. The top three sectors to receive funding are capital works, maintenance and wages.
For the first time ever the budget shows spending by individual projects rather than a breakdown of expenditure per suburb. Last year’s budget allocated $8 million for Williamstown (Strand Ward) , $1.6 million for Altona and Seaholme and $1 million for Laverton and Seabrook. Residents have noticed these discrepancies and in absence of a suburb breakdown for 2015 have been emailing in their objections to their local newspaper. Resident Marilyn Montgomery wrote in to the May 7 “Star Weekly” claiming budget is “unfairly distributed” and urged council to “release the details if there is nothing to hide”.
Williamstown has previously had $8 million spent on major renovations to its library completed in 2012, following a number of refurbishments to the Williamstown town Hall. Councillor Angela Altair, a strand ward MP for 15 years, believes it to be “a stunning design and one of the most popular and busy council facilities”. $3 million in funding is planned for Newport library this year, $5 million less than Williamstown’s allocation.
On behalf of the council, Mayor Wilson responded to these claims a week ago in a press release. “Our funding priorities this year are guided by the community. Between January and March this year, the Council undertook extensive consultation through a survey and a series of community information sessions”.
Not all Hobson’s Bay councillors agree with the mayor’s opinion of the budget. During April 29 council meeting both Cnr Paul Morgan and Cnr Jason Price disagreed with the proposal, voting against the budget going ahead. Cnr Morgan believes the rise is too excessive, “We can’t keep ratcheting up the rates above CPI and expect that our ratepayers will wear that burden all the time when their incomes don’t increase accordingly”. The rest of councillors voted for the budget, Mayor Wilson believing it to be a “sound 10 year financial plan”.
Hobson’s Bay rates have risen 91% over the last 10 years, 2015 rates and budget will be finalised June 30.
Williamstown’s refurbished Town Hall (Left) and new Library (Right)
Article & Photograph by Tessa Bajan