Investing in the community

City of Greater Geelong mayor Trent Sullivan. (supplied)

Never underestimate the power of community advocacy.

As councillors we always strive to listen, and that commitment was clear as we finalised the 2024-25 Budget last week.

After carefully examining 345 submissions in response to our draft budget in April, we were able to find additional funding for several key projects.

Another $650,000 will go toward the construction of a second netball court at Richmond Oval in East Geelong, on top of $250,000 in the draft budget to upgrade existing facilities.

This follows 14 submissions from East Geelong Football Netball Club members and affiliates calling for extra funding.

No doubt they will be thrilled with this upgrade, which will support the club’s growth and increase the playing capacity at its home ground.

Additionally, we allocated an extra $1.5 million for a female-friendly change facilities upgrade at Hamlyn Park, home of the Bell Park Dragons.

This takes the total allocation for the project to $1.7 million, ensuring it will go ahead regardless of the outcome of council’s application for $1.5 million through the Australian government’s 2024-25 Play Our Way program.

Again, this decision reflects the strength and passion of the community advocacy for this project.

Other additional items in the final budget included: $423,000 in extra operating costs to keep North Bellarine Aquatic Centre open during winter; another $30,000 for Geelong Gallery; another $50,000 for Neighbourhood Houses; $3000 to cover an increase in Barwon Sports Academy’s lease costs; and $50,000 for a 12-month membership with Active Geelong.

These extra allocations highlight the importance of the Submissions Review Panel process, which gives our community the chance to respond to the draft budget.

While we were thrilled to add these items, we know that not everyone who made a submission will be happy with the final 2024-25 Budget.

Unfortunately, when putting together such a large budget, it is impossible to fit everything in.

Like most local governments, the City of Greater Geelong continues to face financial pressure, with our costs climbing at a higher rate than the state government’s 2.75 per cent rate cap. This cap limits average rate increases per year to 2.75 per cent, which is lower than inflation.

We must walk a fine line between investing in our community and spending sustainability, amid inflation and other financial challenges.

But I want to assure everyone who made a submission that the needs you have highlighted are well and truly on our radar.

We will continue to campaign for funding and explore other avenues to make these projects a reality.

Thank you for your dedication to the clubs and organisations that provide social connections and physical and mental health benefits for people across the region.

Your passion for improving our community is an important part of what makes Greater Geelong such a fantastic place to work, play and live.