Archive:  Council Finances

Last Updated  19/5/19


2015/16 Budget file



NEW  Action Required   RED ALERT   The 2019/2020 Macedon Ranges' Budget Is A Secret Budget.  Lots Of Council Spending But Almost No Information On How Much Money Will Be Spent On Each Item.  What's going on?   Critical Information Isn't There... And Neither Is Any Accountability And Transparency.

(21/5/19 - C)   No excuse whatsoever for this.  A Council can't just say what it's spending on, it has to say how much each item costs and how it's going to pay for it.  This Budget doesn't.  That information must be provided, and the Budget re-exhibited. 


Macedon Ranges Shire Council has its 2019/2020 Council Plan, Budget and Strategic Resources Plan on exhibition.  Submissions close 11 AM on Tuesday 28 May.


There are plenty of issues with all of these documents, but the most critical and urgent is the absence of individual costings in the Budget for each item listed for expenditure in capital works, works programs and new initiatives.  Normally, each capital works item shows total cost, what type of asset expenditure it is (new, renewal or upgrade), whether money from borrowings, asset sales or financial reserves is involved, grants, contributions and the nett cost to Council (ratepayers) from rates income.  This information was included last year (and in previous years), and it's also included in surrounding Councils' draft 2019/2020 Budgets *.   It is NOT provided this year in Macedon Ranges Shire.   *  Hepburn, Mitchell, Mt Alexander and Hume councils


The result is that Macedon Ranges Council proposes to spend almost $29 million on 177 items in this Budget (68 items listed in capital works (pages 47 - 49), 8 items at carry over capital works (page 50), 63 items at works programs (pages 51 to 53) and 38 items at New Initiatives (Appendix 1, page 57)), but isn't saying how much each costs or where the money is coming from.  Only totals for each category are provided, which makes it impossible to tell if a specific itemís cost is value for money or to make informed comment on spending or whether an item should even be included.  The Shire's residents and ratepayers are being asked to sign off on what amounts to a 'blank cheque'.


Please take the following urgent actions:


MRRA Says:


Talk about retreating behind closed doors and ignoring the community, just like the old Council did.  This isn't what the Macedon Ranges community voted for when it kicked out Councillors and voted in new ones in 2016.  It's also not what those new Councillors promised the community they would do.   Remember?


Not good enough, Council.  It's time to find your socks, put them on and very, very firmly pull them all the way up!   Start by re-exhibiting an honest, open and complete Budget. 

"When transparency, accountability and integrity are put at the heart of local governance systems the risks of corruption are reduced. Citizens can participate in and influence policy design and implementation, and hold local officials to account for their decisions. Local government officials act effectively in the public interest and are open about their activities and take responsibility for them.

Transparency International promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in local governance, regardless of size and context, to ensure that corruption cannot take root."

Transparency International


Some of the other issues found in the exhibited documents include:

Council Plan:  what a wishy-washy, muddled collection of thinking this is turning out to be.  The Council Plan already includes what used to be Council's Health and Wellbeing Plan.  This year the Disability Policy has gone in as well.  No problem with either as principles to be applied, but the fundamental purpose of a Council Plan is to tell ratepayers where Council is going, and what it will do.  The 'what it will do' is then supposed to flow into the budget.  Instead, it is increasingly obvious that the Council Plan's 5 priorities don't accommodate (or comfortably accommodate) all of Council's objectives, actions and functions.  For example, Aboriginal cultural matters - Council's Reconciliation Strategy sits awkwardly in Health and Wellbeing, while anything with even a vague whiff of 'environment' is tucked into Natural Environment (including parks, gardens and rural land), and planning (development, but not use) crashes into infrastructure with both lumped under Built Form.  

There's also a discernible disconnect between what the Council Plan says, and what the Budget is doing.  Only 3 of 38 items in the Budget at Appendix 1 New Initiatives are attributed to originating in the Council Plan.  The anomalies don't stop there either.  For example, one part of the Budget says Council will be funding an Aboriginal cultural heritage assessment of its conservation reserves but the Budget's New Initiatives only include an uncosted item for expanding service levels for Aboriginal agreements and engagement.

Budget:  A positive is that Council is paying off one of the loans taken out by the previous Council ($4.1M), and borrowing costs (interest) are expected to halve (to $259k) in 2019/2020.  However, from the figures provided for money being transferred from Council's Financial Reserves, at least $86,000 is to be spent on cricket nets at Macedon and Woodend (prompting one of MRRA's members to ask if they were made of gold), and $100,000 is being spent on an undefined road upgrade in the Gisborne Business Park (and for all anyone knows, pre-empting any approval of the controversial Gisborne Business Park proposal).   Another pre-emptive item is the "Woodend to Hepburn Rail Trail" at carry-over capital works.  It was included in last year's Budget as a $500,000 project (all State government funding), but this year is uncosted and the $500,000 State government funding has disappeared, on top of which Council hasn't even approved the controversial Shared Trails project. 

Another issue is skewed priorities.  For example, despite limited heritage studies undertaken to date and so much heritage still to be protected in the Shire, and advice from Council that additional resources would be required to do additional studies, no resources are provided for heritage protection in the Budget but an unidentified amount is proposed to be spent on an Amess Road Precinct Structure Plan for more urban growth at Riddells Creek.    We think we can guess what most Shire residents would consider to be the highest priority...

There's also a strong rise in additional staff and related costs this year.  Of the 38 items at New Initiatives, 16 of them directly relate to new staff positions/expanded hours, and 2 more to service level variations.  Overall, 21 additional full time equivalent staff, and $1.615M additional costs are proposed. 

Now go to how Council's Financial Performance Indicators are presented (page 54).  The other 4 Council budgets MRRA checked included Indicators for 2017/18 and three future years from the Strategic Resources Plan, as well as the current and last years, to provide a bigger picture of how a Council is tracking (Mitchell Shire also included KPIs).  Macedon Ranges includes only two years:  2018/19 (last year) and 2019/20 (this year) and calls the percentage differences between them the "trend".

Strategic Resource Plan:  This Plan is supposed to provide projections for future council incomes and spending.  To some extent, it will always be crystal ball gazing, but the differences between what's projected for the next year, and what happens when that year's Budget arrives, can be enormous.  Is there any point in having a Strategic Resource Plan if it has no relevance to what a Council actually does?

So very disappointing that it has come to this.  What Council is doing is not acceptable under any circumstances.  It adds to the growing disquiet already being generated by this Council's acceptance and endorsement of whatever the previous Council initiated, particularly on planning issues.  There are mounting concerns that this Council is increasingly proving a Mayor from the previous Council correct when he said what that Council had done, couldn't be undone.  Too many times, the current Council is simply carrying the previous Council's arrogance forward, and signing off on it.  Time for some deep reflection on raisons d'etre, we suggest.




CURRENT   Woo-hoo.  Stunning Outcome For 2017/2018 MRSC Budget.  What A Difference An Election Makes! 

(9/7/17 - C)  New Council puts changed priorities, and new savings, on the table 


At the June 21 Special Council meeting called to consider adoption of documents associated with the 2017 budget, Councillors voted to adopt the Council Plan (minutes show some interesting changes - moved Cr. Radnedge, seconded Cr. Mees) and Councillor allowances, but deferred a decision on the Budget and Strategic Resource Plan until the Ordinary Council meeting on 28 June.  Councillors flagged that additional Budget savings and changes in spending priorities could be made, and the deferral gave Council administration an extra week to address this.


Roll forward to 28 June, where the officer's recommendation included a range of amendments to the budget.  But the real changes started when Cr. Anderson moved, and Cr. Bleeck seconded, more amendments that changed those already in the officer's recommendation.  Highlights include: 


Officer's Recommendation Councillors' motion
Reduce the amount for CEO recruitment by $15,000 Reduce the CEO operational budget by $15,000.
$42,000 to the autumn leaves festival Deleted.
$25,000 to an equine industry economic development plan Deleted.
$55,000 to the IR Robertson Reserve Gisborne $65,000.
$80,000 for change rooms at Gardner Reserve Gisborne to be taken from the Public Open Space - South Financial Reserve  $80,000 be taken from general revenue.
That officers amend the budget after council adoption to correct some minor typographical errors Deleted


Then some new projects were added:


That council work with the Kyneton Pony Club to develop a fully costed design for the Club's learning centre.

That currently allocated funding for "planning resourcing" deliver outcomes for:

and be coded NP (new project) rather than NS (new staff) in the budget.



Then... along came Cr. Twaits (seconded Cr. Mees), with further amendments to the motion before council.

Amend the budget, as follows:

Here's the link to the 28 June 2017 meeting agenda and (draft) minutes, Item CX5.Ö/Meeting_Agendas_Ö/28_June_2017Ö


MRRA Says: 


Bang!   We're all being taken in a different direction.  This wasn't the rubber-stamping exercise we've all come to detest.  Dare we say it - could it be so - these councillors may have actually read the budget documents?  An oasis blooms after years of desert, no less. 


One of the gratifications MRRA keeps hugging to itself is that next year, with a new CEO on board and a whole year to contemplate (ah, and thoroughly audit) Council's finances, next year's budget should be a doozy.  Sorting out the rats'-nest of Council borrowings would be a grreat start - things like working out how the Shire came to be in so much debt so rapidly, how much is actually owed, what the borrowings ended up being spent on, and why this Shire is repaying debt with money it borrows.


While MRRA didn't get the change we asked for in our submission, we're going to claim some credit for deletion of the ability to make changes after the budget was adopted, without further reference to Council.  About time too, after years of motions across Council business with get-out clauses that allowed adopted documents to be changed without scrutiny.  Maybe now documents going to Council will be in their finished form, or will only be able to be changed/corrected/amended/tidied up as specified in a resolution of Council.  There's also "savings are not to directly impact key community services, delivery of new budget initiatives or proposed capital works", at least not without consulting Council first.  Ahhh.  Now that's what we call PROGRESS.  Well done, and don't spare the horses!



CURRENT MRRA Submission To The 2017/18 Council Budget

(19/6/17 - C)   We've asked for a $3 million error to be corrected  

This week Council decides on its final 2017/18 budget.  During the budget's exhibition, MRRA took the opportunity to make a submission highlighting how, in the 2015/16 budget, almost $3 million in a Council Financial Reserve was re--assigned, without notice, from funding works on council land, to funding economic activities.  We've asked for these millions to be put back where they can be used, as intended, to improve facilities on council land. 


We've also asked for explanations about why there are some major differences between the closing balances of Financial Reserves on 30th June 2017, and opening balances on 1st July, 2017, for example, why is the total amount in Financial Reserves over $300,000 less on 1 July than it was on 30 June?  Please explain...  


It's not a long read, but we think it's an enlightening one!  Here's the link to our submission:  MRRA submission to 2017/18 Macedon Ranges' Budget



Council's Lighter-Than-Air Response To MRRA's Submission On The 2015/16 Draft Budget - And MRRA's Response

(13/7/15 - C)  Mmmm.  Does it seem a tad yuddah-yuddah and lacking specifics to you?  MRSC response to MRRA    MRRA response to MRSC

Macedon Ranges Council has sent MRRA (and apparently all other submitters) a response to our submission on the 2015/16 draft budget.  In our submission we asked for some hefty information to be provided, including but not limited to:  

MRRA Says:


We received several pages of typing, but not the information we requested.   Where to now, we ask ourselves...



Council's 2015/16 Budget:  A Mountain of Debt and a Deteriorating Financial Position  (25/5/15 - C)   Make a submission before 11am on 29 May, and send copies to Mary-Anne Thomas, the Minister for Local Government, and Councillors.  2015/16 Budget

As they say in the States, "It's your money, Ralph".  This time, it's YOUR money and Council is spending and borrowing lots of it.  Too much in fact to be sustainable.  Then we get to what Council is spending it on...  See MRRA's report.  Make a submission.


Council Set To Launch 2015/16 Budget, Council Plan and Strategic Resource Plan - and another almost 5% rate rise

(28/4/15 - C)  Special Council Meeting tomorrow night (29/4/15) 7.00pm, Gisborne Shire Offices to endorse exhibition of budget documents 

With the State government introducing rates' capping next year, strong concerns are held that Councils may try to 'stock up' on rates' income this year, before rate capping begins.  See the article in today's Herald Sun at


The State government has said it wants Councils to refocus on spending money on what a Council is supposed to spend money on (i.e. services and benefits to ratepayers) instead of 'empire-building', and from next year (2016/2017 Budget) Councils will need to keep rate rises to the level of inflation (currently +1.2%).  


In this year's (2015/2016) Budget, Macedon Ranges Council proposes to lift the rate (the 'cents in the dollar' amount it applies to the value of your property to calculate how much you pay) by around 4.85%, in order to collect an additional $2.6 million (total $41.9 million) over what it collected last year.



MRRA Says:

The Budget, the rate increase, the Council Plan, and the Strategic Resource Plan all warrant fairly close scrutiny.  You will have about a month to get your head around them.


This is your chance to check out which 'empire-building' projects our Council proposes to waste our rates on next year (recent examples of profligate spending include the Hanging Rock over-development, the Equine 'Everything' Centre, and Gisborne Shire Office 'renovations').   Be on guard for money Council proposes to borrow, as well.


Draft Budget documents are available as attachments to tomorrow night's Special Council Meeting agenda (be aware that these may be changed before adoption by Council) from Council's website at  or you can wait until Council formally exhibits the adopted draft Budget documents. 


Either way, you are entitled to disagree with the rate and charges Council has come up with, what it is spending our money on, and what it is borrowing money for, and to ask Council to make changes (not that Council has shown any great propensity to listen to ratepayer objections). 


Oh, and tucked away at the back of the Budget (in the Appendices) are Council's 'an-arm-and-a-leg' Fees and Charges, which is what Council charges you to use your assets and obtain Council services.  No publicity about these of course (not even mentioned), and no comparison with current fees and charges, but a good income augmenter for Council. 


Council Plan, Budget, Strategic Resource Plan, Councillor Allowances and Land Sales Are On Exhibition:  If You Are Happy With $10 - $14 Million Debt, 7% Rate Increases, Executive Decision-Making And A New Shire "Vision" You Weren't Consulted About, Do Nothing.

(6/5/13 - RA - C)  Somewhere in the dark corners of Council, someone's making decisions that spiral rates and debt, make the Shire a population and economic growth centre, and implement the draft Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan - without telling us. Be Alarmed.  Submissions close Midday on May 31


The Council Plan


Previous Council Plans (2006 - 2010, and 2009 - 2013) had 'Vision 2025' as their core. Vision 2025, adopted by Council in 2003 after extensive community consultation, articulates the Shire's vision, and values, and where the Shire and community want to be in 2025.  It has 4 key themes: "Sustainable Living" (including sustainable economic development), "Community Wellbeing", "Sustainable Environment and Infrastructure" and "Responsible Governance". 


The new draft Council Plan has a new 'vision':  "Looking Forward to 2040".  No, the community wasn't consulted - hasn't even been told it has happened.


This new 2040 'vision' has 3 key themes:  "An Inspiring Place" (i.e. "best practice planning and development"), "An Empowered Community" (i.e. "a diverse, strong and prosperous economy"), and "A High Performing Organisation" (i.e. "proactively engage with and demonstrate accountability to the community").  Using annual Community Satisfaction Survey results as a guide, most residents already think Council doesn't know the meaning of "best practice", "engage[ment]" or "accountability".  The new Council Plan and its processes confirm that.


 Council has replaced Vision 2025's values of em>"Awareness", "Rich Fabric", '"Our Home" and "Deep Connection" with "Sense of Place", "Sense of Community", "Balance", "Integrity".  That is, integrity as in "To protect and maintain the integrity of townships in a context of population growth", and balance as in "To reach a balance between agriculture and rural/residential lifestyle land use in our Shire".  (Amendment C84 is set to make that happen). 


Apparently visitors will want to 'share' the 'engaging experience' of Macedon Ranges' "creative and enduring industries".  Success in protecting our environment and landscape will be measured against... the effectiveness of the roadside weed program, and environmental management. 


Council Plans normally set out a 4 year plan.  This one only has a one year Action Plan, which "only shows a small part of that we will be doing in the coming year." (page 16). 


The community is left to guess what else Council is doing in 2013/14, and in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17.  The Plan is full of motherhood statements, and almost farcical objectives and 'success' measures.  It doesn't give much away, but it's pretty clear there will be a lot of "leading" (aka executive "top-down" decision-making), population and economic growth (particularly industry) and accelerated rural residential development (selling Macedon Ranges as a place to live). 


The good news is that the Plan does confirm what we all now know:  the still-draft Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan is driving the Council Plan, Budget and Strategic Resource Plan.  Just like it drives Amendment C84. 


The Budget and Strategic Resource Plan


The Strategic Resource Plan is supposed to be a plan of the (financial and non-financial) resources required to achieve the Council Plan's strategic objectives, for at least the next 4 years.  This one seems to be for 10 years, doesn't contain anywhere near the level of detail the 2006/2010 RP did, and is frightening. 


The Budget raises 2013/14 rates by a median of 6.93% (from a 4.8% rise last year and less than 5% rise in previous years).  It doesn't stop there.  The Strategic Resource Plan says (page 13) that  "The long term financial plan is based on rate revenue increasing by 7% per annum." 


The Budget says Shire debt at 30 June 2013 is around $3 million.  However next year Council is borrowing $6.2 million, taking debt to almost $10 million in 2013/14, to pay staff superannuation ($3.6m), the Early Years Hub in Gisborne ($0.7m), Hanging Rock East Paddock ($0.55m) and Indoor Stadium at Gisborne Secondary College ($1m).  And that's just for this year


The Strategic Resource Plan (page 10) shows debt will increase to almost $14 million by 2015/16, and says (page 11) "Council will cap its debt level at $14 million over the life of the 10 year plan."


Fees and Charges in the Budget are odd.  You will pay an arm and two legs in fees for some council services ($75 - $100 for a copy of a planning permit) but there isn't any fee for amending a planning permit, or for a permit to develop land.  Interesting priorities.


Council is also flogging off 'surplus Council land' to top up the Budget.  It's going to try to flog off Namnan Way again.  Wasn't a wise move last time.  Also being flogged off are 4 Gardiner Street, Gisborne and 12 and 14 Wyralla Crescent Gisborne.  You can object or have your say by making a submission (as below).


One more thing, at the same time Council is going into huge debt and upping rates, it is also setting allowances for councillors and the Mayor.  No surprise that the maximum amount available is being proposed:  Councillors $22,405 and Mayor $69,325 per annum.  Other 'perks' also apply.  You can see the 1 May 2013 officers' report here.  You can object or have your say by making a submission (as below).  


Note:  The Local Government Act provides that all of the above issues must be dealt with in accordance with Section 223 of the Act - that means you can request to be heard by Council.  Make sure you put a request in your submission if you want to speak to your objection in person.


Written submissions on the Budget, Council Plan, Strategic Resource Plan, Sale of Council Land and Councillor Allowances will be accepted until 12 noon on Friday 31 May 2013 and should be addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Macedon Ranges Shire Council, PO Box 151, Kyneton VIC 3444 or emailed to  


MAKE SURE YOU COPY YOUR SUBMISSION TO ALL COUNCILLORS.  Written submissions will be considered at 4pm on Wednesday 5 June 2013 in the Kyneton Town Hall, 129 Mollison Street, Kyneton. Council will then meet to consider adopting the Budget and other documents on Wednesday 12 June 2013 at 7pm at the Gisborne Administration Centre, 40 Robertson Street, Gisborne.


Go to Council's website at:


MRRA Says:


Wake Up!  You (we) are being robbed: of our values, of our money, of our place, and of our democracy.  We surely have 5 councillors who don't think that's OK.  Find them.


This Council is implementing the draft Loddon Mallee South Regional Growth Plan - you know, the one that's on exhibition until 17 May.  It's already in Amendment C84 (Council told you C84 changes nothing - it changes everything).  It's in the Council Plan.  It's in the Budget.  Well, it's in pretty much everything Council has done since 2010.  Think Equine Strategy, think Daly Reserve, think rezoning Hanging Rock, think only one Council meeting per month, think officer delegations.  And it's all being done behind closed doors, and without telling the community.


Someone wants this sensitive Shire to become a population and economic growth centre, whatever it takes.  Someone wants ratepayers to shoulder massive debt and outrageous rates to pay for it.  Someone stripped our adopted values out of our Council Plan and put in their own. 


The community isn't making the decisions - it's not being asked, or even told, about decisions that change our future.  These aren't community documents, and this isn't democracy or democratic governance.  It's executive governance and decision-making at its best.


Happy with that? 


YOU are urged (we will even beg you) to make a submission rejecting the debt, rate increase, values and direction presented in the Council Plan, Budget and Strategic Resource Plan.  You have until MIDDAY on 31st May to do it.   Please act, before this nightmare becomes reality.


Local Government Procurement "Roadmaps" Introduced

(11/7/11 - C)  A new (improved?) way for Councils to spend our rates on what we need.  We'll see...

Local Government Victoria has introduced a new "Roadmapping" program (or Procurement Excellence program) to give Councils the support and tools they need to improve local government procurement processes.  Many of those processes involve tenders, and the whole thing is also tied to "Best Value" principles.  A dedicated Department of Planning and Community Development officer will be based in each region to assist councils in regional areas. 


You can find out more about the program generally by going to, and in more detail by going to


MRRA Says:

The idea seems a sound one, although it's not clear whether it has been initiated to lift standards or make procurement processes more efficient.  Maybe it's both.  It will of course float or sink depending on how it is put into practice, but more open and effective processes may see better outcomes for procurement, and in other areas if efficiency savings are applied elsewhere.


Ratepayers' Victoria Inc Backs Rates' Increase Rage, Says "Angry Ratepayers Across Victoria Unite" And Wants To Know Your Concerns

(13/8/10 - C)  Boycott on paying rates for staff superannuation being investigated.

Ratepayers' Victoria Inc has issued a media release and figures for rates and rate increases in Victoria over the last 10 years in response to ratepayer anger at rate increases of up to 175% during that time. 


Click here to see RV's media release 1.


RV has prepared a table showing rate increases for most councils across the state, which really does highlight the problem some ratepayers have with their councils.


Ratepayers' Victoria is now calling for ratepayers to call or send emails of their concerns.  Click here for RV's media release 2


You can contact Ratepayers' Victoria by email Jack Davis on  or phone 03 9570 6227.

Declaration: MRRA is a member of Ratepayers' Victoria Inc.


More Funding For Macedon Ranges

(21/8/09 - C)  Tourism this time 

The fickle finger of funding has again pointed at Macedon Ranges with a $7 million plus funding handout for tourism in the "Spa" region: Daylesford and Macedon Ranges.  The announcement was made by the Brumby government last weekend.


MRRA Says:

How lucky is Macedon Ranges?  The funding will no doubt be a welcome boost to the area's tourism credentials.  It comes on the heels of an incredible and surprise donation of $5 million for the Kyneton pool, along with a series of other substantial funding windfalls from stunningly generous State and Federal Labor governments.


Is it because Macedon Ranges is within the most marginal electorate in the country (McEwen)?  Could it be because there are State and Federal elections coming up next year? 


Coincidentally, Mr. Noel Harvey is reported to have recently been appointed to the Daylesford and Macedon Ranges 'department' of Tourism Victoria.


Draft Council Budget And Council Plan Out For Community Comment Until 26 June

(30/5/09 - C)  Get your copy now 

At last Wednesday's Council meeting, the draft 2009/2010 Council budget was moved forward to exhibition.  It will be available for residents to obtain and inspect, and make submissions, until 26 June. 


Get your copy from Council's website:


MRRA Says:


We will be taking a look at both the Budget and the draft Council Plan.  Both warrant close scrutiny, particularly the debt and borrowings section.


Macedon Ranges Shire Gets $947,000 From Federal Govt

(19/11/08 - FG)  That's two pieces of good news: that we are getting it, and it doesn't look like it can be spent on the Kyneton pool

Macedon Ranges Shire's new council will have its work cut out making decisions about where this money can best be spent to deliver the most benefit to the wider community and to create some local jobs from those projects.  It seems that the money may not be spent on items that are already budgetted.  If so, that would mean the Kyneton Mechanics' Institute and the Kyneton Pool (and whatever else was funded in the last budget) wouldn't qualify to benefit from the Fed funding.


Auditor General Warns Councils To Rein In Spending:  Expenditures Exceed Revenue

(14/11/08 - C)  Not good news for those in Macedon Ranges who think it's OK to run Council deep into debt for the Kyneton pool

In a report tabled yesterday in State parliament, the Auditor General has urged Councils to be more careful with how they are managing their budgets and expenditure.  Click here to see Herald Sun article.  This surely is a timely warning for those who apparently want to 'create a splash' by supporting the Kyneton pool proposal, which will see Council borrowing millions of dollars and potentially bankrupting the Shire, or penalizing residents with prohibitive rate increases.  Isn't it time to look realistically at what's possible and what's not?  Seems some just don't get it....  You can access the report by going to


Industrial Relations Commission's Decision: Council Performances Condemn Ratepayers To More Expense

(29/9/08 - C)  $40,875 awarded to unfairly dismissed Shire employee, and it may not stop there

The Australian Industrial Relations Commission's decision ([2008] AIRC 1191, 12 September 2008), through Commissioner Lewin, has criticized Macedon Ranges Council and highly criticized a current Shire employee for events and their roles leading to the unfair dismissal of David Brown.  The Commission's decision follows an earlier direction that both parties consider reinstatement of Mr. Brown.  It is clear in this decision that not only didn't Council wish to reinstate Mr. Brown, but the Commission found reinstatement would likely be detrimental to Mr. Brown's interests. 


The Commission found that through Council's actions, Mr. Brown lost $683,436.11 in remuneration.  The amount awarded against Council ($40,875) is the statutory maximum amount of compensation the AIRC can award.  The Commission further notes that this amount relates to lost income, but not to "any issues of shock, distress, humiliation or other analogous hurt suffered by Mr. Brown as a result of the termination of his employment". 


You can access the decision by clicking on


MRRA Says:


Dear oh dear.  At least another $40,000 to be found from a budget that has no slack, thanks to the Kyneton pool, and those Councillors who favour it over prudent financial management.  Where will the money come from?


To refresh your memory, Crs. Noel Harvey, Helen Relph, John Connor, Henry Bleeck, and Geoff Neil voted for the pool.


Rates & Valuations:  "Not Happy" Is The Message Starting To Filter Through...  But Do You Know What You Can Do About It?

(10/8/08 - C)  And if you think the slug is bad this year, just wait...

Some residents are starting to report whopping increases in the amount of rates they have to pay this year.   The key reason seems to be valuations.  All properties in the Shire were re-valued in January - at the peak of the market.  That valuation will stay in place for the next two years (the next re-valuation is due in January 2010). 


In rough terms, the amount people in rates pay is generally influenced by two main factors (setting aside for the moment fees and charges): the Capital Improved Value (CIV) of their property, and the amount (cents) in each dollar of the CIV Council takes as rates (i.e. your rates are a percentage of the value of your property - the percentage amount is determined each year by Council, the value of your property is based on the results of two-yearly property valuations).


In theory, Council determines 'the rate' (cents in the dollar) before each Budget.  Council is supposed to decide what it will spend money on, and then 'strike a rate' that will produce enough income from rates to fund Council's Budget. 


Things shift a bit in a valuation year (a year when new property valuations are made).  Valuations can go up or down, but more usually go up.  When they do, the Capital Improved Value of properties in the Shire increases, giving Council a bigger base of 'dollars' from which 'cents in the dollar' can be taken.  Council then can in fact strike a lower rate (take fewer cents in the dollar) but because there are more CIV 'dollars', end up with the same or more rates income than it received using a lower CIV and higher 'cents in the dollar' the previous year.  Which is what has happened this year in Macedon Ranges. 


Based on Council's 2008/2009 budget, while the amount in the dollar (the rate) decreased (from 0.002839 in 2007/2008 to 0.002798 in 2008/2009 for the General Rate), the new valuations saw the Capital Improved Value of properties in the Shire increase by $613 million plus.  So while 'the rate' was actually lower than last year, the increased CIV resulted $1.4 million more income for Council simply because properties were more valuable.  This type of situation unfortunately allows Council and Councillors to 'spin' their way out of trouble by saying they haven't increased rates, which is true, but the amount ratepayers pay can nevertheless be higher.  Some valuation increases are driven by market demand, but can also be driven by improvements made to a property, or even surrounding properties.  Improvements made to a property are recorded, and the Capital Improved Value can be adjusted accordingly between valuations. 


Property valuations in Victoria are made under the Land Valuation Act 1960 (you can download a copy from

The Act sets out the basis for property valuations, and the processes open to residents to question or challenge a valuation that has been placed on their property.  You can also find out more about property valuations and your rights from, > go to Property, Titles and Maps > Valuations.


MRRA Says:


Valuations are in part based upon the 'highest and best use' the land can be put to, not just how it is being used now.  In the absence of appropriate planning controls in Macedon Ranges which limit development and development potential to a level that is compatible with preserving the features and attributes of the Shire that are significant at a State level, residents are at the mercy of market forces and a very generic planning scheme, with real estate interests and speculators driving land values up.  The sooner the planning controls Macedon Ranges needs are introduced, the sooner land values will stabilize.


The worst part of all of this is, if four of our current Councillors are returned at the November election (Harvey, Relph, Bleeck and Neil), all they need to do is pick up 1 other 'like-minded' Councillor and the Kyneton pool (and at least $5 million in loans) will go ahead.  Paying back those loans and the interest on them - as well as paying for anything else Council spends - will see steep rate increases next year (and in following years) on top of the impacts from high valuations that some residents have felt this year. 


Obviously, we all have some serious thinking to do about who we will - and won't - vote for come November, don't we?


Is It A First?  A Controversial Council Budget Scraping Through On The Casting Vote Of The Mayor?

(16/7/08 - P)  Can we now say it really is Noel Harvey's pool?

Togetherness is a wonderful thing. 


Take the togetherness Macedon Ranges Councillors exhibit over the Kyneton pool, for example.  There's always a 5 to 4 divide.  The five who vote for it, and the four who vote against it. 


But at the meeting where Council made a decision about whether to adopt next year's budget, that togetherness slipped, and what emerged was... ownership.  


Cr. John Connor (who until now had voted consistently to move the Kyneton pool forward) was absent on the night Macedon Ranges Shire Council voted on its 2008/2009 budget.  That meant only 8 Councillors would be present.  That meant that if voting went along 'traditional' lines, the vote on the budget would be tied 4 to 4.  It would take a Mayoral casting vote to decide.  And that's exactly how it happened. 


Crs. Noel Harvey, Geoff Neil, Helen Relph and Henry Bleeck voted for adopting the budget which contains a $3 million loan, part payment for the Kyneton pool. 


Crs. Rob Guthrie, Sandra McGregor, John Letchford and Tom Gyorffy voted against adopting the budget with a $3 million loan, part payment for the Kyneton pool. 


So Mayor Noel Harvey cast the deciding vote - in favour of putting the Shire into deep debt to deliver the Kyneton pool.  What's more, we believe he said he was immensely proud of this budget - yep, the same one that starts the downhill financial slide for all residents of the Shire...


MRRA Says:


Actions can speak louder than words, don't you think? 


Even blind Freddy could pick what we are going to say next. 


Please don't reward this disgraceful performance by voting for any of the Councillors who voted for this budget.  Make sure you put them right down the bottom, because that seems to be where they put you.


Council 08/09 Budget:  Drowning In Debt - What Council Didn't Tell You

(24/6/08 - C)  Is it back to the 'bad old days' of having to check every inch of a budget?  Council's unannounced change to its accounting method for borrowings makes a terrible outcome look good.   MRRA tackles the key points in its Budget Myths

At its Ordinary Meeting in Kyneton (Town Hall) on Wednesday 25th June 2008, starting at 7.00 pm, Council will decide whether to adopt its draft Budget. Ratepayers might like to pop along wearing their life vests or similar life-saving apparatus to make the point that if this budget (and the Kyneton pool) go ahead, ratepayers and the Shire will be drowning in debt.


MRRA lodged a submission on the draft Budget, raising a number of issues, but also calling for changes to be made and the draft Budget to be re-exhibited. Why?  Because Council has moved the goal posts for measuring financial health, and didn't tell anyone about it (see Budget Myth # 5).  The change has the effect of making Council's rapidly mounting debt look a whole lot better than it is. 


Frankly, MRRA smells a rat, or at least would like some answers.  Is Council fiddling around with formulas to try and 'technically' get away with putting the Shire into so much debt?  Fiddling, so to speak, while the Shire burns financially? 


MRRA has referred this and other issues to the Minister for Local Government, Richard Wynne, and with the Auditor General, Mr. Des Pearson. 


Also, in this, the year Council starts putting the pieces into place for the Kyneton pool, Council didn't hold public meetings about the draft Budget.  It would have been nice to have one...


You can download a copy of the draft Budget from Council's website  Click on For Your Comment and you will find the draft Budget tucked away there.




Is The Sky The Limit For Council's Costs In Its Fight Against A Charge Of Unfair Dismissal?

(11/3/08 - C)  Help!  Has anyone got the facts?

A resident this week whipped in some ballpark figures for what it might be costing Council to defend a charge brought against it for unfair dismissal by former employee, David Brown.  Here is that resident's estimate of costs so far:


Original commission hearing :

About $15,000


Another 5 days at the commission :

About $30,000


Full bench hearing :

About $15,000 per day (no. of days unknown)


Has anyone got any clues about whether this is or could be correct?


Council's 2007 / 2008 Draft Budget Is Now Available For Comment:  Some Good And Some Bad.  The Really Ugly Part Is The Poor Consultation Process

(21/6/07 - C)  There's both give and take - the general rates increase at around 6% is lower than last year (though it's still going up), but hooee, take a look at Council debt!  Submissions close 3 July

Residents currently have an opportunity to comment on Council's 2007 / 2008 budget, so get your copy and take a dekko. 


It's available from Council's website, can be inspected at Council Service Centres, and other arrangement may be made by contacting Council.  Click here for a quick look at the information on Council's website. Note:  you will be better off reading the draft budget tables on your computer - they are so small as to be almost unreadable in the hard copy MRRA printed from a download from Council's website.


In her opening remarks, Mayor Helen Relph tells us she is pleased with this Budget. Council is claiming that, per capita, Macedon Ranges Shire Councilís rates are lower than the state average and lower than the average for large rural shires. 


The rates' rise certainly isn't as much as many anticipated, so Council probably deserves a small pat on the back for that, though It does leave us wondering what will happen next year when undoubtedly some of our current Councillors will be looking to hand out 'sweeteners' before offering themselves for re-election.  The Municipal Charge stays at $130, but garbage and recycling rises from $185 to $195. 


Unless you are superhuman you won't have had time to read the draft budget (51 pages) before you attend the 'consultation' meetings Council is running, if you can get to the meetings at all.

Community Information Session #1 at Kyneton 19 June 07    (Same day the draft budget was released!)
Community Information Session #2 at Lancefield 20 June 07 (Same day as the Ward Meeting in Lancefield!)
Community Information Session #3 at Gisborne 21 June 07

Submissions will be considered by the same Special Committee of Council (Crs. Helen Relph, Noel Harvey and Henry Bleeck) that made such a mess of meeting times, and reporting back to full Council, during the recent attempts to sell off Council land (e.g. Namnan Way).  We live in hope of improved performances.


MRRA Says:


There are probably some projects in the draft Budget that will please a lot of people.  Woodend and Riddells Creek are to get Outline Development Plan (town plan) funding, and a substantial amount of asset maintenance, drainage works and community hub/centre works are also proposed. 


However, just two controversial, majority-but-not-all-Councillors-voted-for-it projects between them consume $1.4 million of a $10 million capital works budget:  $1 million (from rates) for refurbishment of the Kyneton Mechanics Institute (as a result of approving the Kyneton Bowling Club pokies venue (Crs. Noel Harvey (West), John Connor (West), Helen Relph (West), John Letchford (South) and Geoff Neil (East) voted for this), and $400,000 ($200,000 comes from a grant) for the proposed Kyneton indoor pool (Crs. Noel Harvey (West), John Connor (West), Helen Relph (West), John Letchford (South) and Henry Bleeck (East) voted for this). 


Borrowings (the amount of debt) the Shire proposes to carry is worrying.  At Appendix B of the draft Budget, it says Council will pay over a million dollars towards the principal of its (+ $7 million) borrowings, and another $420,000 odd in interest payments, during the next year.  For all of that, it ends up with almost the same level of debt on 1 July 2008 as is shown for July 2007 (because it seems Council intends to borrow another $1 million at some stage during the year which takes us right back to where we started from). 


At Appendix B, Council's Debt Strategy says that Council will cap borrowings to no more than 50% of annual rate revenue, and annual principal and interest payments will be less than 6% of annual rate revenue.  Hmm... The draft Budget says this year's borrowings "generally" adhere to the Debt Strategy: the balance of outstanding debt represents 36.9% of rate revenue, but the repayments are 8.3%.  MRRA asks: can this be considered to "generally adhere", and is the amount of repayments - to simply get back to where we are now - acceptable?


Last year Council deferred making a decision on the Budget to allow it to consider submissions (MRRA gave Council a pat on the back for this).  We don't know if Council's consideration of the draft Budget will revert to the usual this year, where historically submissions close the day before Council approves the Budget which doesn't leave much time for anything anyone says to influence or change the Budget before it's adopted.  Hey, don't let that put you off - make a submission, you'll feel better for it - and maybe one of these days there will be true community consultation on, and genuine opportunities to influence, draft Budgets.


Romsey Hub Almost A Goer

(12/9/06 - C)  Council just has to find the money to finish buying the land

At the Council Committee meeting on 6 September, a report to Council described how it has only now come to light that the car park used by the Council offices in Romsey - to be used as part of the new Romsey Hub - is in fact owned by Western Water, not Council.  A 2004/2005 feasibility study seems to have missed this anomaly.  It has only been picked up as part of detailed planning after the project was approved and costed by Council, which last Wednesday decided to purchase the land from Western Water at a Valuer-General's valuation of $140,000.  The land purchase and cost were not included in the project costs or this year's budget, so, even though the Hub is underway, Council will postpone buying the land and have referred it to the 2007/2008 Budget.  So that's $140,000 less Council can 'play' with in next year's budget unless it raises rates to get more spending money.


Council Continues (Unbudgeted) Spending Spree - At Least $200,000 More Sent To Next Year's Budget

(12/9/06 - C)  Shire will need to win Tattslotto if Councillors keep spending at this rate...

The 'big spend' - mostly unbudgeted - continued at last Wednesday's Council Committee meetings.   In addition to now having to find $140,000 to buy land for the Romsey Hub in next year's budget, Council also took on a huge financial commitment when it agreed to accept responsibility for several State owned recreation facilities (Romsey Park, Tylden Hall, land formerly part of the old Kyneton Hospital site, and Riddells Creek Reserve Toilet facilities).  From what MRRA can work out, a minimum of around $80,000 will be referred to the 2007/2008 budget as a recurring annual cost, most of which will likely be repeated annually for the next five years.  But it doesn't stop there.  There are also huge implications for Council's building renewal program (particularly at Romsey - another $218,000 added to commitments) and a looming $500,000 to build a new pavillion at Romsey Park as well.  For Tylden Hall, $64,000 will need to be found for additional works at the Hall over the next five years.  Road and pavement maintenance, running Committees of Management, some other cleaning and maintenance 'bits and bobs' will all add to the costs.


MRRA Says:

Isn't it about time Councillors were provided with a running tally of what they are committing to, as suggested by Cr. Tom Gyorffy when Council approved its 2006/2007 budget?  This little lot comes on top of indoor pools and uncosted approval for demolition of an asbestos-affected building two weeks ago.  At this pace, residents won't have to worry about just a 9% rate increase next year.  But the amounts aren't the only worry.  It's the somewhat cavalier way Council is approving this stuff as well.  Some Councillors raised concerns about taking on such a financial responsibility (Cr. Gyorffy asked Council to say 'no' until the Department of Sustainability and Environment came across with appropriate funding, and Cr. Guthrie said some funding should come with the new responsibility), but others (Connor, Relph) said it was about supporting community.  Mayor Geoff Neil moved and Cr. John Connor seconded the officer's recommendation to pick up the properties, and the tab.


Let's hope that with the extensive spending inherent in at least two proposals for Romsey, those attending Council meetings will no longer have to put up with the Mayor's whining, and often rude and unfair, comments about how hard done-by Romsey is.


Splish-Splash - Council Finances Go Crash As 'Usual' Councillors Go For Kyneton Indoor Pool

(28/8/06 - C)  If you pay rates in Macedon Ranges, you should be afraid

Early in the Council meeting on Wednesday 23 August, as Council considered its Business Review ending 30th June, Cr. Rob Guthrie flagged his concerns with the on-going losses being incurred by the Gisborne indoor pool ($271,000 in its first year of operations - $100,000 over budget) and an apparent concurrent dip in attendance numbers.  He warned Council it needed to be mindful of the centre's operations. The Business Review was adopted without comment on its contents from other Councillors. 


Five agenda items later, Cr. Noel Harvey enthusiastically moved, and Cr. John Letchford equally enthusiastically seconded, a motion that Council endorse making a submission to Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV) seeking $2,500,000 funding for an indoor pool in Kyneton.  In a report by Officer Rod Clough, the cost of an indoor pool was given at $7,000,000. Council's cost of $4,500,000 (after SRV funding) to be obtained from Asset sales ($200,000), Community contribution ($200,000), Loan ($2,400,000), and General Revenue ($1,655,000).  But there's more...


The indoor pool would only be part of the package proposed as the new Kyneton Aquatic Centre.  Also included is Tennis Court and Clubhouse redevelopment ($428,000 - the new pool is proposed on the existing tennis courts necessitating new courts to be constructed), and refurbishment of the existing Kyneton Sporting Complex ($734,000).  The total capital works package is $8,117,413.00.  Estimated operating losses (pool and sporting complex) will be $222,000 in the first year, and $187,875 per year on a 10-year average basis.   These figures are based on over 118,000 people attending the facilities in the first year (some 30,000 more than attended the Gisborne pool), with 146,220 persons attending per year on a 10-year average basis.


Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said Council wasn't committing to any dollars by supporting the motion**, simply reconfirming what had been agreed in 2000.  He was bringing it forward because of the State election.   Cr. Letchford (South) said he couldn't see a logical reason why Council couldn't have a pool in the north, this one with additional features of gym, kiosk and creche. He was scathing of the previous Council's failure to include these 'ancillary' features at Gisborne, and said they were great swimmers in Kyneton and the community would take less time to get the money than Gisborne.  Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) opposed, saying he was a Councillor for all of the Shire, not just his ward.  He expressed concern at substantial losses with the Gisborne pool, and objected to a combined 'black hole' of $500,000 yearly from just these two pools if Kyneton went ahead, especially when elderly people weren't going to get their lawns mowed because Council couldn't afford it.  He would love to have the pool in Kyneton and have poorer people get more out of rates, but it wasn't in the interests of people in Macedon Ranges to have another pool sucking heaps of money out of the budget.  Mayor Geoff Neil (East) also opposed saying once again people in the east of the Shire were to subsidize the Calder corridor, and once again would be 'cash-cows' for other residents.  He said he couldn't see where Council could find $4.5 million, particularly with losses at Gisborne.  He argued Romsey was growing and would be the place to put another pool when it was economical to do so.  He flagged an alternative motion of laying the matter on the table but the motion was disallowed.  Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) said he was concerned about costs.  Indoor pools can be 'black holes', costs had blown out at Gisborne and the same officer had done costings for Gisborne and Kyneton.  Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) said the Kyneton pool was 50 years old, and the numbers to make it work would be there - there are 3,000 pupils and Kyneton is growing.  He said Council could sell the Gisborne pool if it was stuck for money.  Cr. Helen Relph (South) said it went against all her beliefs to look at this and say it would lose money.  Kyneton has a strong swim club, and there were a lot of students; maybe Council get more money.  Cr. Sandra McGregor (East) said she opposed the pool for the same basic reasons as Crs. Gyorffy, Neil and Guthrie.  She said Council should consider it at a future date.  There was already an 8.91% rate increase and Council is cutting services; Council can't justify committing to another pool at this point.   Cr. Noel Harvey (West) closed debate saying local government was finally moving into core and non-core promises - he spoke loudly of how the Kyneton community had been given a very firm commitment 6 years ago and he was appalled to think Council was now saying sorry, get stuffed, we are not honouring that commitment.  He said a Kyneton pool would have substantially more use than Gisborne, Gisborne people have choices (15 minutes to 2 pools).  Kyneton had a growing young population and old people used pools too.  He derided Mayor Neil's comment that this was a hasty decision, saying it had been coming for 6 years and said again he was appalled Council might say wait, it costs too much.  He said other Councils provide pools and they all make a loss.  Council gave a strong commitment and was well placed with the State election coming up.  The motion to pursue funding was moved Cr. Noel Harvey (West), seconded Cr. John Letchford (South) and supported by Crs. Helen Relph (South), John Connor (West) and Henry Bleeck (East), with Crs. Tom Gyorffy (West), Rob Guthrie (South), Sandra McGregor (East) and Geoff Neil (East) opposed.


MRRA Says:

MRRA reps were wondering which planet they were on by the time debate closed on this one, and by the fact that those supporting such massive expenditure seemed to hold so little concern for cost blow-outs at Gisborne.  And despite Cr. Harvey's comment that approving the motion didn't commit Council to dollars, the officer's report clearly states just preparing the submission will cost $30,000 ** (which by our reckoning would probably keep mowing services to low income and disadvantaged residents going for another year). 


But the spending spree didn't stop there...  By the end of the meeting Council had also agreed to spend $17,000 on the Gisborne Skate Park (unbudgeted, from reserves), $15,000 on landscaping in Clarkefield (unbudgeted, from reserves)*, $2,500 on providing a meal to the 430 Air Force Squadron cadets and their families* (unbudgeted), providing Christmas decorations to the Shire's main towns* (unbudgeted), funding staff and signs for parades* (unbudgeted) and demolishing the former Kyneton Guide Hall* (unbudgeted, involves asbestos removal).  Items marked with an asterisk* were submitted as notices of motion, and were approved without an officer's report on costs, liability, process or any other issues.  For example, no-one seemed to know much about the former Kyneton Guide Hall, such as who owned it, any legal or notice requirements that may exist or what it would cost to demolish it and remove the asbestos, but that didn't stop Crs. Bleeck (moved), Letchford (seconded), Harvey, McGregor, Connor and Neil from approving it (only Crs. Gyorffy and Guthrie opposed).  Cr. Gyorffy in fact seemed to test the Mayor's patience by pointedly opposing almost all notices of motion.  Cr. John Letchford stood out as seconding many of them.


Putting up a wish list through notices of motion might seem an easy way to get what some Councillors want.  However, MRRA says making major but uninformed decisions "on the run" through notices of motion abuses that process, and potentially exposes the community to substantial liability and financial consequences.  It is an irresponsible, if not negligent, practice that must stop.


8 to 1 Vote As Council Adopts 2006/2007 Budget And 8.91% Rate Hike

(16/7/06 - C)  A glimmer of long-term hope for pensioners as some Councillors say budget must be done differently next year - with one notable exception

Last Wednesday Macedon Ranges Council voted 8 to 1 to go with significant rate rises in next year's budget.  Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) opposed, saying Council should have done more to reduce the rate rise.  He offered examples of where savings might be looked for, such as reviewing how many staff drive Shire vehicles to Bendigo each night.  One option before Council was to take out a half million dollar loan to pay for some budget items and so reduce the rate increase.  Acting CE Glenn Owens pointed out that while possible, it would be contrary to Council's policy on managing debt. 


Mayor Geoff Neil (East) moved Council go with the draft budget, noting it was an important budget for the whole shire. Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) seconded the motion.  Mayor Neil said he was mindful of those with limited incomes but they weren't a majority, and while they would become a voice as they grew Council needed to make hay while it can.  He added the median rate rise was only $2 extra per week.  He said in justification of the rate rise that the community wanted improvements in the appearance of towns, and Council has to stifle the ever-widening infrastructure renewal gap.  He personally thought submissions very valuable, but the budget had the right 'mix.'   Cr. Bleeck thought Council had done a good job, and said petrol had risen more than rates.


Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) came close to voting against the budget, but found nothing that could be cut without hurting someone.  However he made it clear that unless next year's rates are tied to CPI, he won't support that budget.  He said Council needed to look hard at its Operational budget ($38M, compared with $14M for Capital Works), saying this, the majority of the budget, came before Councillors almost as a fait accompli, and after adding projects supported by Council during the year, it left only a small amount for Councillors to 'play with' at budget time. He echoed Cr. Guthrie's concerns that while rates were going up over $90, pensioner concessions from the State government rose less than $5 (because unlike rates, concessions are tied to CPI).  He said some people in the Shire just can't afford the rate rises (Cr. Guthrie went further by saying increases will price some people out of the Shire).  Cr. Gyorffy said the budget needs more assessment against productivity and also asked Mr. Owens for a mechanism Councillors could use throughout the year to measure how Council support for an isolated project would influence the budget bottom line.  Mayor Neil agreed 'very much' with Cr. Gyorffy's proposal to review Operational expenses.  


Crs. Connor (West), Letchford (South), Relph (South) and McGregor (East) said nothing during the debate. 


On the other hand, Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said he was amazed at claims (from fellow Councillors and submissions) that Council hadn't done a thorough job preparing the budget; it had spent hours going over Operational costs and he rejected any suggestion the budget was anything but thorough and comprehensive. He said don't compare this budget and rate increases with other areas; rate increases in other areas were an irrelevance.  He also rejected claims this year's rate increase was the highest since 2001 because the 'old guard' were re-elected, and spoke quickly of times going back to before commissioners were appointed (in 1995), possibly making the point this year's rate increase wasn't the old guard's fault, but his comments weren't clear. 


He said the real issue was cost shifting by State and Federal governments.  He would love to go to CPI but how could it be contemplated?  Rates made up only 3 cents in the dollar of all taxes paid, Cr. Harvey said, and he thought a sound case could be put to double that, and although he supported people on fixed incomes, Council can't afford to reduce rates.  He said people want services and Council provides them, at ever more expense, but local government still represented good value.  He seemed to challenge some of his fellow councillors by saying it was easy to say support only CPI increases, but how would Council deliver?   The Mayor's closing comments seemed to take a swipe at Cr. Guthrie (who voted against adoption of the budget), saying it was easy to take the populist view, to just cast aspersions without putting up alternatives.


MRRA Says:

Not sure about the Mayor's final comments: from where MRRA reps were sitting, they thought Cr. Guthrie did make suggestions about how things could be done differently. 


MRRA promised Council a second pat on the back if it listened to community submissions.  Perhaps we should have made it clearer: we meant if Council actually changed the budget in response to submissions.  Based on what happened, we are withholding that second pat. 


However, Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy deserve recognition as having genuinely thought about impacts on the community, wanting to tie rate increases to CPI and (with Mayor Neil) strongly supporting a review of Council's operating budget. 4 of 9 Councillors said nothing, so we will never know why they supported the budget or what they thought about its impacts on the community.  Cr. Noel Harvey's comments came across at times as confused/confusing and a bit 'blame someone else'.  Cr. Harvey's support for doubling rates (from 3 to 6 cents in the dollar) as a proportion of all taxes paid was chilling and left MRRA reps with a perception of future big-spending Council budgets, if Cr. Harvey's philosophy prevails.


Council Defers Budget Adoption: Will Consider Public Submissions

(9/7/06 - C)  Council gets one pat on the back for deferring, but there's two pats in it if Council actually listens to what submissions say...

Last Wednesday's meeting on Council's draft 2006/2007 Budget didn't go the way most Budget meetings go:  that is, forget the submissions, let's adopt the Budget.  This time around, Council is at least giving the appearance of listening to community comments and has deferred off adopting the Budget to a Special Council Meeting to be held Wednesday, 12th July, at Kyneton *.


MRRA Says:

The Association made a submission on the Budget so is more than an interested bystander.  It will be "well done" to Council if it takes on board comments made in what is, compared with previous years, a large number of submissions. 


* We couldn't find any information on Council's website ( for this meeting so interested residents should check that site for info on the meeting's starting time, or call Stephen Mahon at Council on 5422 0352.


Back to 2001 As Macedon Ranges Residents Face 8.91% Rate Hike

(20/6/06 - C)  Council Budget out for community comment until 4th July - meetings coming up

There was a waft of deja-vu about the hefty rate rise in this year's budget.  According to Cr. Rob Guthrie, the last time Macedon Ranges Shire faced an increase in rates like this was 2001 (+11.5%).  The Municipal Association of Victoria this year said Councils would need at least 6.5% rate increases, just to maintain services and infrastructure.  That said, surrounding Shires seem to have come in with lower rate rises than Macedon Ranges.


MRRA Says:

2001?  What a coincidence - wasn't that when some of our 'recycled' councillors were last councillors? 


The hefty rise comes in a revaluation year - where the value of properties in the Shire has risen $904 million to $5.5 billion.  It's not unusual under these circumstances for the "rate" (cents per dollar of capital improved value) and % rate increases to dip, because with higher property values, a reduced "rate" can produce the same income as the previous year.  This year's rate in the dollar is 0.002645 cents (General Rate) which is down from 0.002848 last year.  It has been kept higher than needed to simply duplicate last year's income, so Council is taking more money from us. Together with the higher valuations, and increased charges, that rate will provide Council with $2 million more in rates and charges income than last year - a big chunk coming out of our pockets. Rates and charges (together) will increase by 9.31%.  An example of how this plays out is that owners of a median-priced residential property ($295,000), receiving services, will need to find another $92 (+8.9%).  Last year, equivalent rates & charges increased by 6.4%.


We know part of the money will go towards doing some more strategic planning work.  Wouldn't it have made a difference, as far as direct costs to ratepayers and the time being taken to do the work, if the State government had lent us a 'big' hand (when we asked them to a couple of years ago) and had come across with a realistic amount of funding to get this work done?


Residents are strongly encouraged to grab a copy of Council's budget from Council's website ( and have a look.  Make a submission if you like.  You could also attend one of the four information meetings Council proposes to hold:


Tuesday 20 June 7.00pm - Macedon Jubilee Hall

Thursday 22 June 7.00pm - Lancefield Mechanics Institute

Tuesday 27 June 7.00pm - Baynton Public Hall

Thursday 29 June 7.00pm - Bullengarook Public Hall


Congratulations to Council for including and involving some of the "further flung" areas of the Shire in this consultation process.  But wouldn't just one meeting in one of the bigger towns also have been appropriate?  Or perhaps some information about how to get to these venues? 


Council will decide on the Budget on July 5th (or a week later if required, to consider submissions).  Watch for an announcement of a Special Meeting on that day.