Draft 2020/21 Budget designed for local support and recovery

Published on 30 June 2020

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Media release

An opportunity for a rates discount and a commitment to “shovel-ready” projects to revitalise the economy are among the features of the City of Stonnington’s 2020-2021 draft Budget(PDF, 2MB) to be released to the community for feedback.

Mayor Cr Steve Stefanopoulos said the Budget was designed to support local business, rebuild community confidence and strengthen the City’s long-term financial resilience.

“This draft Budget reflects a radically different set of factors that were simply unimaginable in March,” he said.

“While it outlines the many important services provided by Council, and details the funding required to deliver these, it does so amidst a significant decline in revenue of $9.6 million from the 2019-2020 forecast and a deeply impacted economic environment.

“Thanks to many years of prudent financial management, Council is able to offer relief for residents and businesses while remaining committed to critical long-term capital projects that create jobs and economic opportunity.

“It provides economic stimulus through shovel-ready capital works, such as the restoration and redevelopment of Prahran Town Hall, but equally many smaller projects across our neighbourhoods.

“It puts the ‘local’ into local government by bringing forward investments in open space, facilities and infrastructure, while reflecting the significant revenue shortfall expected to result from the extremely challenging economic conditions faced by businesses.

“It is a responsible draft Budget, balancing prudential financial management with the need to help kick-start the Stonnington economy,” said Cr Stefanopoulos.

The draft Budget delivers on the strategies outlined in the Council Plan 2017-2021 and lays the foundations for the next four-year blueprint.

Submissions on the Draft 2020/21 Budget are invited from the public until 5pm Thursday 30 July 2020. Submitters who would like to speak to their submission will be heard at a public meeting on Monday 17 August 2020 (subject to COVID-19 public health restrictions and practices).

The Draft 2020/21 Budget document can be viewed here(PDF, 2MB) and submissions are welcome made via Connect Stonnington by 5pm Thursday 30 July.

A Budget for the times

Council is responding to some of the immediate impacts of COVID-19 on our community, with a $4.93 million support and relief package

included in the draft Budget, to help members of our community.

This is reflected by:

  • waiving Footpath Trading Permits and Food Act Registrations from April - September 2020
  • introduction of an early payment discount of 2.0 percent to all rate payers
  • halting the charge of interest on rates to provide relief to ratepayers
  • waiving parking fees at carparks to assist traders, shoppers and visitors
  • increased marketing and media campaigns to drive economic activity in local precincts
  • targeted Community Recovery Grant Program
  • significantly reduced parking enforcement through the State of Emergency period
  • implementation of the ‘Active Stonnington’ program to improve the health and wellbeing of the Stonnington community through increased levels of sport and physical activity
  • improved cleaning and security regimes to keep our open spaces and facilities safe for community use and social distancing requirements.

Highlights

Council continues to place significant emphasis on the delivery of local capital projects in the Proposed 2020/21 Budget. The overall capital works program includes:

  • Roads, footpaths, Bridges and drainage works ($14.7 million) – includes $1.1 million carried forward
  • Community building renewal and improvement works ($20.9 million) – includes $11.4 million carried forward
  • Parks, open space and recreation renewal and improvement works ($14.5 million) – includes $2.5 million carried forward
  • Strategic property acquisitions to increase open space within our community ($10.0 million)
  • Customer Experience Improvements and Digitisation Program to support current and future organisational and community needs and expectations ($5.7 million)

As part of the overall programs noted above, the Proposed Budget includes many exciting initiatives and projects, including:

  • Harold Holt Swim Centre masterplan Implementation and improvement to facility equipment ($4.4 million) – includes $2.3 million carried forward from 2019/20
  • Annual program to upgrade and replace playgrounds in parks throughout the city ($0.3 million)
  • Energy efficiency implementation to further reduce Council's greenhouse gas emissions and utility costs ($0.6 million)
  • CCTV and access control system upgrade for a safer community ($0.6 million)
  • Malvern Town Hall precinct improved public pedestrian areas and carpark arrangement ($0.7 million)
  • Forest Hill masterplan implementation ($1.3 million) – includes $0.2 million carried forward from 2019-20
  • Princes Gardens masterplan implementation ($1.2 million) – includes $0.5 million carried forward from 2019-20
  • Implement the approved Stonnington Cycling Strategy ($0.3 million)
  • Urban Forest Strategy Implementation - Streets and Boulevards ($0.5 million)
  • Garbage & Recycling Bin Replacement Program ($0.2 million)
  • Chapel Street Streetscape Masterplan Implementation ($1.8 million)

Fiscal sustainability

Council has determined that to meet our obligations of the community recovery effort and long term financial sustainability, there is little choice but to pass through the rate cap rise of 2.0 percent which has been determined by the Victorian Government.

Whilst this is in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and is consistent with similar inner city and inner eastern councils, the City of Stonnington will implement a 2.0 percent discount for early payment of rates that are paid in full by 31 October 2020. This discount comes in addition to relief already announced for residents and businesses across a range of fees and charges and a revised hardship policy. For example, for those unable to pay the full amount up front, no interest will be charged.

This approach will help boost Council’s cashflow, which in turn will reduce borrowings, and enable Council to provide the support thosewho may have difficulty paying their rates.

In some instances, rates payable may increase or decrease as a result of the most recent State Government valuation of their property.

Surplus

The Proposed 2020-2021 Budget will deliver a significantly lower surplus than previous years at $22.19 million. Council undertook an extensive review of expenditure, which factored in increases in materials, services and operating costs. Income was also set 2.0 percent lower than forecast in 2019-2020, driven by an expected reduction in open space contributions paid by developers and a reduction in statutory fees and fines. 

Savings 

Council has identified significant internal savings to be spread evenly across the organisation, including productivity and efficiency improvements. There will be a significant focus on budget control and sustainability through improved service delivery, ensuring the economic co-benefits of direct investment flows directly to the community. 

The Proposed Budget also underlines the importance of major projects such as the Prahran Town Hall restoration in creating employment and economic growth and reflects the need to maintain planning of capital investments for the longer term in order to have a range of shovel-ready projects for delivery when improved economic conditions allow. 

The total capital works program outlined in the Proposed Budget is proposed to be $67.79 million, which includes $15.24 million of deferred expenditure from 2019-2020. This reprioritisation has assisted Council to maintain a healthy cash surplus versus restricted assets in future years. 

Festivals and Events 

Council has a critical role to help nurture our artistic, cultural and community life, particularly now. 

Over many years, the Festivals and Events program has become an integral part of the fabric of Stonnington, much loved by many thousands of patrons from all over Melbourne and beyond, and highly anticipated year on year. 

While the overall Festivals and Events budget has been significantly reduced in response to the pandemic, it has been designed for flexibility and constant review, enabling us to deliver a program of activities tailored for the economic and social conditions the community finds itself during COVID-19. 

Read the full draft Budget(PDF, 2MB) and provide feedback by 5pm Thursday 30 July.