Shellharbour council budget goes to the vote

Shellharbour City residents face an average rate rise of $102 if the council's 2014-15 budget is endorsed on Tuesday night.

The council's draft budget attracted 13 submissions during the public exhibition period, with concerns raised on a variety of issues ranging from the proposed $24 million to be spent on the city hub, through to an $800,000 allocation for fleet vehicles and a planned $4 entry fee for Shellharbour's cold water swimming pools, which until five years ago were free to use.

Shellharbour City Council general manager Michael Willis said since the exhibition period the federal government had frozen financial assistance grants, which would cost the council $78,063 next financial year.

Also since the budget was exhibited, the proposed 2014-15 allocation for the City Hub project has been reduced by $6.8 million to $18.1 million to align with the revised construction program, which now has an estimated completion date of September 2016.

Plans to spend $1.5 million on the proposed $14.5 million Dunmore resource recovery centre have also been modified.

With the project delayed for six months, the council intends to spend just over half that amount ($775,000) in 2014-15.

Meantime, Shellharbour councillors are in line to receive a 2.5 per cent pay rise.

In its annual review, the Local Government Remuneration Tribunal determined that an increase of 2.5 per cent in fees for councillors for the 2014-15 financial year was appropriate.

Councillors will receive an extra $440 from July 1, increasing their fees to $17,930 per annum, with the mayoral allowance increasing to $39,110 per annum.

The council's 9 per cent rate hike in 2014-15 is the second annual increase as part of a special four-year rate variation approved last year.

Shellharbour rates increased by 8 per cent last year and the approval allows for a further 10 per cent rise in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

If the budget is endorsed on Tuesday night, Shellharbour's average residential rates bill will stand at $1232 in the 2014-15 financial year.

Shellharbour City Council's new sponsorship policy will be tested for the first time at Tuesday night's council meeting when the council considers allocating $48,500 worth of grants to 17 organisations.

Last month the council's financial assistance working party assessed the submissions tendered under the new financial assistance and donations policy adopted last year.

Previously the council provided the same amount of funding annually on a long-term basis to 12 of the groups that have been recommended for support.

These groups are now required to reapply for the funds annually.

"This new process provides everyone with equal opportunity to access funds set aside by council to help organisations run events or assist our residents in a range of ways," Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said.

Among the 12 groups asked to reapply for the funds was the Shellharbour Sports Assistance Fund (SSAF).

Formed nearly 40 years ago, the SSAF provides financial aid to Shellharbour's athletes to help them compete at state and national events.

Last year council staff suggested the group's annual $10,000 allocation be withheld given the SSAF's "healthy bank balance" of $32,000 and because council did not support other residents involved in activities at a state and national level that were not sport focused.

Now it is proposed the council allocate $6000 to the SSAF this year, with the balance of the $10,000 to be provided through council support of the fund's annual awards dinner.

Some of the groups proposed to receive support include the RYDA Road Safety Education Program ($4000), Southern Stars ($5000), Albion Park Show ($4000), Illawarra Business Awards ($5000), the Camp Quality i98FM Convoy ($3500), the Roller Hawks ($3000) and the Relay for Life ($2000).


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