Thursday, April 25, 2024

Funding exclusion could cost Baw Baw more than $2m says council

Baw Baw Shire Council says the Victorian Government’s decision to exclude Peri Urban Councils from the Growing Suburbs Fund could cost local residents more than $2 million per year. 

The Council said that working within the restrictions of rate capping, cost shifting from other levels of government to Council, and amidst unprecedented population growth, Baw Baw Shire has recently relied on the Growing Suburbs Fund (GSF) for the delivery of numerous community infrastructure projects, including:

  • Longwarry Early Learning Centre ($500,000)   
  • Bellbird Park East, Drouin Multi-use Pavilion ($2 million)   
  • Baw Baw Culture and Connection Precinct Stage One – Library and Learning Centre ($3.5 million)   
  • Rollo Street, Yarragon – Community Open Space Project ($1.53 million)   
  • Queens Street, Warragul Streetscape Project ($673,000) 

Totalling approximately $8.5 million, the average annual funding amount since Council gained access to the fund has been around $2.7 million.

That shortfall may have significant impacts as Council reexamines its Long Term Infrastructure Plan in the wake of the decision, Council said in a statement.

“With Baw Baw Shire Council and other Peri Urban Councils now excluded from eligibility we are bracing for funding impacts to a number of priority projects and service areas,” says Mayor, Annemarie McCabe. 

“The Victorian Government’s reforms to 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten is seeing demand for early years infrastructure skyrocketing in Baw Baw. We are predicting that we will need an additional 1,000 spaces in the next few years.

“While the Victorian Government’s Building Blocks program will provide some funding, the GSF had been considered an important additional funding stream to make up shortfalls and allow the rapid expansion we are required to deliver – and which the youngest members of our community need.” 

Council says other projects which may be impacted by the Peri Urban exclusion include a planned Weebar Road Sporting Precinct in Drouin and pavilions at Longwarry, Neerim South and Western Park in Warragul.

Deputy Mayor, Michael Leaney, who is also Chair of Peri Urban Councils Victoria, says that Council is seeking a response from the Victorian Government in the wake of the decision.  

“The purpose of the Growing Suburbs Fund has been to support Council’s experiencing significant population growth. Well, Baw Baw and our fellow Peri Urban Councils are amongst the fastest growing regions in the state,” says Cr Leaney.

“Without any warning or explanation, an arbitrary line on drawn on a map in Spring Street may amount to millions in crucial funding lost to our community each year.

“As a Council, we are unified in calling on the Victorian Government to either reconsider its decision or establish a new fund for Peri Urban Councils to replace the funding opportunity we have lost, complete with a clean definition of what constitutes Peri Urban regions so that funding lines cannot be moved on a whim in the future.”

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