Orange City Council’s budget for the coming financial year is aimed at building momentum to complete a number of key projects already underway and assist the Orange economy to continue to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
Tuesday night’s Council meeting adopted the draft budget after considering feedback from the community.
The budget includes plans to spend $92 million on capital projects in the coming year, part of a projected four year capital spend of $232.8 million from 2021/22 to 2024/25. The budget proposes a consolidated operating deficit (before capital) of $826K for 2021/22.
The projects are to be funded by a mix of already-approved government grants, council reserves, property sales and loans. The list of major capital projects will see work continue on a number of major projects during the next 12 months, including:
- The FutureCity CBD upgrade, including lighting upgrades
- The first steps on the new sporting precinct
- A new constructed wetland to expand the output of the city’s stormwater harvesting system, and
- A series of major road upgrades, including completing the current stage of the southern feeder road and beginning the next stage.
In line with a unanimous Council decision earlier this year, the budget would also see a start on the Orange Regional Conservatorium project during the next financial year.
The budget proposes allocating the $20 million needed for the project over the next two years with $10 million to come from an agreed Federal Government grant and $5 million to come from Council reserves and land sales.
Council has also asked for a report on how to fund the remaining $5 million from Council reserves if the NSW Government does not offer grant support for the project.
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd believes the community will welcome a determination to finish a number of major projects as well as start new initiatives.
“The community realises that big projects like the southern feeder, our CBD upgrade and a major new wetland will take a number of years to deliver,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “Seeing the latest instalments of these costs emerge in our annual budgets is a responsible way of managing these projects.”
“These are all key pieces of infrastructure that will add value to our local economy for years to come. This investment will be boosting the capacity of our local economy to generate jobs.”
Residential and business rates will rise by 2%, the increase capped by the NSW Government’s Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). Average residential rates will increase by $32.35 per year, or by $1.12 per week, including water, waste and sewer charges). Average business rates will increase by $96.96 or $1.86 per week.
Orange City Council’s Finance committee chair Cr Kevin Duffy has welcomed the budget’s mix of minor projects and small-scale suggestions that have come from individual council members.
“I’m pleased we’re able to continue to give new footpaths a higher priority. The budget also includes plans for a number of projects that have come from long-term strategic planning, but there’s also suggestions that have come from council members which are aimed at improving local neighbourhoods and finding solutions to local problems,” Cr Duffy said.
The list of suggestions from councillors that were added during the Council budget discussions includes:
- $500,000 to replace trees that died during the drought with advanced tree stock
- $250,000 for maintenance on the Robertson Park and Cook Park rotundas
- $15,000 for a new program to encourage residents to plant gardens on the verge in front of their home. Funding for this program could be increased if a grant application is successful.
- $100,000 to build a new picket fence around a sportsground at Spring Hill, as well as get detailed costings and look at building for a new fence around Riawena Oval
- $50,000 to install lighting and CCTV in Esso Park
- $100,000 to install CCTV, new fences and headstone repairs in the Orange cemetery
An extra $150,000 to bring spending on new footpaths and footpath rehabilitation to $900,000
While the draft budget was on exhibition for community comment for 28 days, 605 people visited the YourSay Orange website, reading articles about aspects of the budget, completing surveys or leaving a comment.
83 people completed a survey about general responses to the budget with:
- 74% supported continuing with the next stages of the Future City CBD upgrade
- 60% supported the construction of the sporting precinct
- 90% believed increased spending on footpaths was worthwhile
- 65% believed spending on upgrading the sewage treatment plant should be a priority