Rate increase, relief program in Budget

FINANCIALS: Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin and Acting Council CEO Kristen Clark.
FINANCIALS: Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin and Acting Council CEO Kristen Clark.

A rate increase of 3.6 per cent has been proposed in the Whyalla City Council's 2020/21 Draft Budget, which also includes a rate relief program for those hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Council are allocating $775,000 for remitting rates for owners of residential, commercial, and industrial properties impacted by COVID-19, having already approved deferral of 4th quarter 2019/20 rate payments for approved ratepayers.

Whyalla Mayor Clare McLaughlin said council's rate strategy would achieve a degree of stability by avoiding fluctuations in rate increases that have been prevalent over the past 10 years.

"In the past 10 years the rates have gone up and down like a yo-yo, we see this Long-Term Financial Plan as a way to have stability over the next 10 years," she said.

"We want to have a well-informed financial plan that is sustainable for our community, we believe it's the responsible way to go for the next decade.

"We are also offering support to the public if they're having difficulties paying their rates...council made a strong commitment at the beginning of the pandemic to support our community."

By the numbers the latest budget will inject $24.8 million into the local economy, including a $427,000 spend on local economic development (up from $171,000) and a $445,000 spend on grants, donations and events (down from $467,000).

The bulk of the budget will be comprised of a $21.8 million capital works program, with major projects including the Whyalla Airport runway upgrade ($5.7m), the second year of council's road reseal program ($3.4m), and stage one of its stormwater management plan ($1.4m).

Acting CEO Kristen Clark said Whyalla had a number of aged assets that would need to be maintained through capital works.

"Stormwater is a big issue, and we're looking to run stormwater through Civic Park and the new school site so we've been working with the Department of Education around that," he said.

"Council is investigating whether that water can be captured to be re-used through our median strips and parks and open spaces."

Community consultation the budget is now open and all submissions or comments will need to be received by Friday 21 August 2020.

A public information evening will be held at 7pm on August 5 at the Whyalla Public Library, Ekblom Street, while verbal submissions relating to the draft document can be made at the General Council meeting on Monday, August 17 commencing at 5:30pm, with both meetings subject to COVID-19 restrictions.

Council is also seeking feedback in the form of an Annual Community Survey, the results will provide baseline data by which Council can gauge improvement over time.

Community members wishing to participate in the survey can complete the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/annualcommunitysurvey.

If you are struggling to make rates payments you can contact Council on 8640 3444 or email council@whyalla.sa.gov.au to discuss options available.