THE City of Swan voted on Wednesday night to adopt their 2020/21 annual budget as advertised, with a motion to make significant cuts to the budget to keep rates down defeated.
Councillors had to make a decision between a rate rise of between $5 and $20 for more than 22,000 rateable properties, or a significant rate rise in 2021/22 to keep rates at last year’s mark by deferring $11,035,960 from the 2020/21 annual budget.
Councillor Ian Johnson opened the debate with his alternative motion.
Mayor Kevin Bailey suspended standing orders for five minutes to give councillors a chance to read the 12-page motion, which was submitted just hours before the meeting started.
The list of projects Cr Johnson would have seen deferred or reduced was extensive, with West Swan Home Support, the upgrade of Midland Town Hall, the construction of Workshop Avenue and parking projects in Ellenbrook, Guildford and Midland, as well as a raft of other projects, deferred until the next financial year.
Councillors Johnson, Rashelle Predovnik, Jennifer Catalano, Andrew Kiely, Tanya Richardson and Claire Scanlan all argued in favour of the cuts to keep rates at a zero per cent rise, however as several councillors pointed out, most noteably Mel Congerton and Cate McCullough, the anticipated rate rise was miniscule compared to future rate rises if $11 million worth of projects were deferred.
The alternative motion was rejected 9-6.
The officer’s recommendation was then adopted 12-3.
Only councillors Predovnik, Catalano and Kiely stuck to their guns and voted against the officer’s recommendation, with Cr Johnson abandoning his opposition and voting to support the status quo.
Speaking to Echo News after the meeting, Cr Bailey said that while some rates would go up, it was the better option to prevent rates skyrocketing over the next two financial years.
“The average rise will be between $5 and $20 for those that are going to get an increase,” he said.
“It’s a similar amount or more for those getting a decrease.
“So in terms of a rise it’s about one cent a week to $1.16 a week for the big end of town.
“Most of what Cr Johnson was asking for was deferrals, and when you kick things down the road they’re still going to be waiting for you.
“We’d be expecting a massive bow-wave of costs into next year and the year after, and at this point in time the economic bow-wave is unpredictable so small increments and the status quo are more financially responsible.
“Deferring these things into next year would have resulted either in massive rate increases or massive service cuts to try and maintain a stable budget.
“As an example, the Operations Centre, the budget for that was reduced by $110,000.
“Rain actually comes into a welding room and floods when there’s people welding in there.
“Most of the things that Cr Johnson wanted to cut can be outsourced to local businesses.”
He said there were several projects coming in the next financial year the community could get excited about.
“The Ellenbroook Youth Centre has been funded, Brockman House has been funded, the tender is currently out for the Ellenbrook Swimming Pool and Recreation Centre and funds are on the budget for the Midland Skate Park and Youth Recreation Area in Midvale, so there are some really exciting projects coming.”