Different kind of budget

Geelong mayor Trent Sullivan. (supplied)

The draft budget put out by the City of Greater Geelong this week tells the story of a council in a far different position to what it was last year.

The City’s draft 2024-25 budget was released for public exhibition at this week’s council meeting, with councillors happily referring to the many projects and services whose funding would be restored after being reduced or suspended in last year’s budget.

Mayor Trent Sullivan said this was a “solid budget” that “shows good financial management”, resulting in a small operating surplus of $2.1 million and had “something for everybody”.

“All the allocations in this budget show that the ratepayer’s dollar is going as far as it can,” he said.

“The amount of community feedback we got last year…was phenomenal. We always appreciate community feedback, and it showed what was important to the community.

“So we’ve had to heavily invest in these areas and really work on ourselves to make sure that we can fulfil the promises that we made in last year’s budget.”

Geelong Regional Library Corporation’s (GRLC) funding was a source of major controversy and community backlash.

The new draft budget increases GRLC’s funding from $13.25m in 2023-24 to $15.51m, which includes running costs for the new Armstrong Creek library, due to open this year.

Rate rises will remain capped at 2.75 per cent, in line with Victorian government’s direction, although while commercial and industrial rates will decrease by an average of five per cent, residential rates will increase by 4.5 per cent.

Capital works expenditure has risen from $142.82m last year to $210.54m, with increases in spending across the board for plants and equipment, property and infrastructure.

Funding for community-led projects will also increase, lifting by $431,000 to just under $4.48m.

Most councillors heartily endorsed the budget at Tuesday’s meeting, with deputy mayor Anthony Aitken the sole voice of caution.

“I’m going to call it a sombre and testing budget,” Cr Aitken said.

“We’re a $672 million business and we’ve only got a wafer thin margin in terms of our surplus.

“The budget we’re announcing tonight is a $2.1 million surplus. And then the next four years, the next three years after that, it actually decreases again to 1.9, to 1.1 and then $1.5 million.

“All we actually need is one weather event in the city of Greater Geelong and we’re actually in deficit with our budget over the next four years.”

Councillors urged residents to engage with the draft budget, either online at geelong.link/budget24-25 before 5pm on Wednesday May 22, at one of a series of public budget information sessions, which run from April 27 to May 11 or at a budget submissions panel hearing on Monday, June 3.