What do we consider when developing our budget?

We develop an annual budget every year. Each time, we use the Long Term Financial Strategy, adopted strategies (such as the Bicycle Strategy and Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy) and budget from the previous year as the foundation to build from.

Developing our budget is a fine balance that requires us to consider a number of factors. For example, the budget must:

  • Fully fund essential services that all local councils are required to provide, such as waste collection, parks and gardens maintenance, parking services, maintaining and improving local roads, council buildings and infrastructure.
  • Provide for high quality services that our community expect, including services for vulnerable community members.
  • Operate within the constraints facing all local councils, including the State Government cap on rates, which limits the amount of funds that councils can raise from rates.
  • Be financially responsible and respond to our current and future financial position, including servicing debt levels.
If we were to add a new priority in to the budget in 2018/19, our current financial position would require us to take something of equivalent value out of the budget (or, find additional revenue to fund it).

How do we allocate our capital works budget?

We often receive questions about the way we allocate our capital works budget, which is expected to be just under $26m this year.

The vast majority of our funds (about 99% of this year’s capital works budget) are used to renew or upgrade ageing assets such as roads, footpaths, drains, buildings and parkland.

Our Asset Management Registers track the condition of our existing assets and let us know when they need to be repaired or replaced. This ensures that our essential assets remain safe to use and meet the evolving needs of our community.

Some capital works funding comes from Federal and State Government agencies via grants, and this money is given to support the delivery of specific projects (like the Stewart Street shared zone featured in the story below).

Similarly, when we receive open space contributions from developers, this money can only be spent in accordance with Yarra’s Allocation of Moneys Received via the Public Open Space Requirement Policy adopted by Council in July 2016.

Are Yarra home owners paying the highest rates in Victoria?

No. Residents in many Victorian municipalities face higher average residential rates payments than Yarra residents. For example, of the six other municipalities bordering the City of Melbourne, three pay higher average rates that Yarra. Visit the Know Your Council website learn more.

Is Council in debt, and if so, why?

Council is expected to be about $46m in debt at the end of the 2016-17 financial year. Council has borrowed to fund the construction of the Bargoonga Nganjin North Fitzroy Library and the purchase of 345 Bridge Road, Richmond, the latter of which boosts the local economy, houses important Council services, and generates rental income from tenants. Borrowing for these projects ensures that intergenerational costs are shared between current and future ratepayers, who will all benefit from the new facilities.

Do rising property values and/or the property boom lead to increased rate revenue for Council?

No. Changes in property value only affect how much one property will pay relative to another. In 2016 the value of the average property in Yarra increased by 16.93%. In general terms, if your property’s value increased by more than 16.93%, your rates went up. If your property’s value increased by less than 16.93% your rates went down. Council’s overall rate revenue was capped at 2.5% and did not increase in line with property values. The cap has been lowered to 2% for 2017-18.

While it is true that a new development often leads to an increase in the number of ratepayers, it does not result in an overall increase in Council’s rate revenue. Instead it results in the rates burden being shared among a higher number of ratepayers. It’s also important to remember that new developments result in increased demands on Council programs and infrastructure, such as roads and footpaths, parks and gardens, maternal and child health services, libraries and leisure centres. 

Shouldn’t Council focus more on service delivery and cut back on Corporate and Financial Services?

Our Corporate and Financial Services Division actually includes a range of front line services, including compliance, local laws, parking enforcement, school crossing supervision, and much more. Internally facing functions such as auditing, risk management and corporate performance ensure that we always operate in a responsible, transparent and accountable manner.