$67.5 million to be spent on key capital works projects are features of a draft budget plan for Wingecarribee Shire.
In total the draft plans for a balanced budget with expenditure of $157 million.
It allows for $49 million council borrowing over the next four years.
It also includes a 2.6 per cent increase for rates, domestic waste charges, and water and sewerage charges. This is in line with Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
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Following considerable discussion, shire councillors unanimously endorsed that the 2020/21 Operational Plan and Budget be placed on public exhibition from May 29 to June 26.
The Operational Plan and Budget details council's proposed budget and activities for the year ahead. It enables council to allocate the financial, physical and human resources.
Some of the highlights include $67.5 million to be spent on capital works projects including major works on Old South Road, Seymour Park in Moss Vale, the SRLX and multi-million upgrades to the shire's water and sewerage network.
Consideration has also been given to the bushfires and COVID-19 within this year's Operational Plan and Budget.
Meanwhile, Arthur Inglis, deputy chairman of William Inglis and Son Ltd and leading equine bloodstock auctioneer said the creation of an Agribusiness and Equine Strategy would be a boon for the shire.
"This is an excellent initiative with enormous potential to transform the Highlands, an area already ideally suited to agritourism and a wide array of equine pursuits."
Mayor Councillor Duncan Gair described the draft as "one of the most difficult to put together under extreme conditions."
"Some things had been pulled back, but they have not been taken off our project list," he said.
Other major funding initiatives which are proposed for inclusion in the draft 2020/21 Budget include:
- Establishment of an animal shelter reserve with an opening balance of $5.2 million (subject to the satisfactory settlement of land sales). It is recommended that council establish this reserve using the proceeds from recent land sales. Through establishing a specific reserve for the new shelter, this will then allow for further project scoping and design to be completed before a formal estimate is presented to Council.
- Mittagong Memorial Hall rectification work estimated at $2.5 million (inclusive of design and preliminaries). However, it is recommended that council continue to undertake further investigation and design works in 2020/21 using an allocation of $500,000 and for the rectification works to be undertaken in the 2021/22 financial year. A high level estimate of $2million has been included in the 2021/22 draft budget with the works proposed to be funded through additional loan borrowings.
- Station Street upgrade and Mittagong public parking. The current budget estimate for the Station Street upgrade project is $16.333 million. As works have been delayed due to finalising the design requirements with the relevant state agencies, council has to consider escalation cost impacts. It is recommended that $929,000 be allocated to the project as part of the 2020/21 budget to allow for cost escalation. A further $1 million is also recommended for inclusion in the draft 2020/21 Budget for public car parking improvements at Mittagong Train Station.