The City of Victor Harbor has released its draft 2018/19 Annual Business Plan and Budget for community feedback and on Thursday, June 7, elected members, council staff and the community were invited to a public information session on the draft.
However, only 13 ratepayers took up the opportunity to quiz elected members on the budget and the proposed 3.5 per cent increase in rates. The $34.7 million budget included council proposing a capital works program worth $7.4 million and $27.3 million operating expenditure, resulting in a deficit of $201,000.
Michael Smoker, who has declared himself a City of Victor Harbor mayoral candidate for the November local government election, asked about staffing costs in relation to other councils. CEO Victoria MacKirdy said council is currently gathering data with 20 other councils.
“I am looking forward to the comparisons. We will be able to see what we are delivering compared to other councils. Efficiency in a project could mean more council collaboration,” Ms MacKirdy said.
Mr Smoker said “staff levels was a vital part of the council budget consideration”. Councillor Tim Glazbrook agreed stating that staff costs is 50 per cent of the rate revenue. Former councillor Mark Richards said he was concerned the direction council was going in this budget.
“In a recent report Victor Harbor was rated at the bottom out of 120 regional council areas for household income and it is the same kind of budget as when I was a councillor many years ago. This budget is not offering economic development,” Mr Richards said.
Ratepayer David Kemp took elected members to task on the financial failings of council. “Elected members are the governing body of council and has the responsibility with council administration in setting the budget.
“There are too many businesses under the control of council that is draining money from our community. In 2018/19, the horse drawn tram is budgeted to lose $664,000, the Whale Centre $328,000, Visitor Information Centre $390,000 and the Fleurieu Aquatic Centre $890,000. They are all not financially viable,” Mr Kemp said.
“The business undertakings by council are a festering sore which is hemorrhaging.” Cr Peter Charles said he will revisit the budget. “I have not voted for one budget since I was elected”. Cr Moira Jenkins said Victor Harbor is bigger than tourism. “It is not the be all in economic development. We have education, aged care training, Flinders Uni, TAFE and we need to build on that.”