Draft budget reveals higher government funds drop

The draft budget for 2024-25 financial year has released. Picture: ON FILE 245295_06

By Corey Everitt

A worrying drop in funding from State and Federal Governments and a shift to infrastructure and open space mark the council draft budget for the next financial year, passed in the recent council meeting.

The council projects to go $3 million into the red for 2024-25, in terms of the adjusted underlying result of the budget which excludes external capital grants that can’t be spent on overall operating costs.

Capital grants may not be counted to the bottom line of the budget balance, but they are vital funding for developing local infrastructure. The council notes that Federal and State Government funds through these grants will drop by a projected $20.2 million throughout the next financial year.

The council predicts to bring in $243 million in total revenue and spend $166 million of it. $101 million of the revenue will be drawn from residents’ pockets in rates and charges.

This is a drop in rates from last year as the rate cap has been set at 2.75 percent for the 2024-25, down from 3.5 percent from this financial year.

The council notes this as a significant influence on their reassessment on capital works and seeking alternative revenue streams as the consumer price index increased 4.1 percent in 2023.

The top expense will be in community infrastructure, accounting for $22 within every $100 the council spends.

Roads, drains and footpaths have been consistently the top for spending, but in this budget it dropped from a third at $33 last budget to now accounting for $19 of every $100.

Parks and Garden will have more spending, jumping up from $7 last budget to $15 for the next financial year.

$21.7 million will be invested into asset renewal programs for existing Council assets including roads, drains, paths, playgrounds, and swimming pools.

Among other increases in spending is health and social services, with planning expenses to increase to $595,000 compared to $173,000 in the 2022-23. Investment in early years support and maternal health will each double from last year.

People with disabilities lose out in this draft with Cr Radford raising the removal of funding to a program critical to developing accessibility across the shire, a cut of approximately $240,000.

Certain areas of maintenance are expected to become more costly with the management of both bridges and existing facilities to double to $1.3 million and $4.1 million respectively.

The maintenance of Cardinia’s open space is expected to increase by over $4 million in two years to cost $13.6 million.

Mayor Kowarzik said there has been a lot for the council contend.

“This year, as with the past few years now, we’re still seeing increases in the cost of living affecting our community. Managing the unpredictable nature, impacts, and costs associated with relief and recovery efforts from natural disasters is a rising challenge, and we’re seeing continued rapid population growth and increasing demand for, and on, Council assets and services,” Mayor Kowarzik said.

“What this means for our Council and community is that we must work together, alongside other levels of government and partner agencies, to responsibly balance these financial limitations, innovative where we can, and always remain responsive to the needs of our community.

“It’s not a simple or easy task by any means, but it’s one that we’ve been committed to throughout the development of this draft Budget, and one we will continue to work toward accomplishing over the coming year.”

The draft was carried and will enter community consultation.