RATEPAYERS face a 5.5 per cent rise in rates as part of Frankston Council’s 2015-16 draft budget.
Councillors passed the draft last week and will now seek public feedback before formally approving the budget in May.
At last Monday evening’s council budget meeting, councillors congratulated themselves on keeping staff costs down when discussing the draft budget.
Council labour costs, totalling $56.96 million in 2014-15, have dropped from about 52 per cent of expenditure to about 48 per cent in 2015-16, but will rise to $58.46 million according to the draft budget.
While councillors were vocal about efforts to keep staff remuneration levels down, they were less frugal last month when they unanimously voted to award CEO Dennis Hovenden a near 10 per cent pay rise. Mr Hovenden, the highest paid council employee, saw his annual remuneration rise from $297,000 to $325,000.
The $325,000 package includes salary, superannuation and council vehicle.
Mr Hovenden joined Frankston Council from Swan Hill Rural City Council in September 2012.
Council advised The Times the CEO’s contract includes an annual performance review and annual review of remuneration.
A council spokesman said Frankston is classed as a large regional/medium metro council and the average CEO remuneration for the 11 councils in this category is $295,000-$370,000 so this benchmark was used to determine Mr Hovenden’s $29,325 remuneration rise.
The CEO’s pay jump may raise eyebrows in Spring Street. Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins is pressing ahead with a Labor state government pre-election pledge to cap council rate rises across Victoria at the rate of inflation, forecast to be 2.6 per cent, from the 2016-17 financial year.
Coincidentally, Ms Hutchins released a statement on Sunday “warning councils to get back to basics”.
“Councils need to put a stop to over-the-top executive pay rises and needless waste,” Ms Hutchins said.
Labor’s rate capping policy again came in for fierce criticism by councillors last week. Cr Darrel Taylor said infrastructure needed to be maintained and the rate capping policy will be “a large challenge”.
“We haven’t had new toilets in this town for 30-40 years,” he said.
Cr Colin Hampton, a long-time Labor Party member, said many Frankston clubs and institutions will not have capital works funded if the rates capping policy comes into effect.
He said council goes through its annual budget “line by line”.
“We are far more responsible than any other level of government; be it state or federal,” he said. “I believe we are far more in touch with our community than any other level of government.”
Frankston Council’s 2015-16 budget also took a hit after council paid $9 million to Casey Council as part of a $23.5 million settlement to homeowners near the Cranbourne Stevensons Rd landfill site after a 2008 methane gas leak forced the homeowners’ evacuation. Frankston Council was a part-manager of the landfill site until 2005 (‘Tip dispute costs councils’, The Times 8/12/14).
Frankston mayor Cr Sandra Mayer said the council’s 2015-16 draft budget is “a financially sustainable budget for the Frankston community”.
“For an average increase of less than $2 a week, ratepayers in Frankston will benefit from the new Waste Transfer Station and redeveloped Frankston Yacht Club, which are among $51 million in capital works projects across our city.”
The draft budget is available for public feedback until 5pm on Monday 11 May. See frankston.vic.gov.au or call 1300 322 322.