COUNCIL BLAMES RATE-CAPPING
BOARDS, managers and volunteers from Macedon Ranges-based neighbourhood houses are furious that council financial support will be halved in the new financial year under draft budget measures proposed.
Managers have received letters from the council advising them the cuts are due to rate-capping measures implemented by the State Government.
In correspondence seen by the Leader, the advice to managers was the annual contribution to each neighbourhood house in 2016-17 is $1718, excluding GST. The Leader understands the usual contribution is $3335.30.
The funding helps centres cover costs such as electricity and maintenance.
Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House co-ordinator Nicole Garbutt said volunteers at her centre delivered 37 programs a week from 10am to 3pm, Monday to Friday, attracting an average of 97 people.
“We host an annual street festival for the whole community of Riddells Creek as a way to bring the community together,” she said.
“However, this might have to cease as a result of the funding cuts.”
Ms Garbutt said increasing the costs of programs and room hire would need to be considered as a way of recouping lost funds to ensure the day-to-day costs were met. The centre also auspices a history group, farmers market and men’s shed.
Elsewhere Lancefield Neighbourhood House co-ordinator Vivien Philpotts said programs such as a men’s shed, farmers’ market, community resource centre and opshop were co-ordinated from the centre, which is not council owned.
“Due to our involvement in so many larger projects we do not run as many fee-based courses as we used to so no longer have that source of revenue which kept the actual Neighbourhood House afloat,” she said.
“The shire money allows us to continue to run the house and be involved in new initiatives without having to go back to the old days of sausage sizzles and raffles to be able to run projects.”
About 370 people a week access the centre, she said.
Romsey Neighbourhood House co-ordinator Michelle Balthazar said more people were accessing a parcel food program than ever, but it was increasingly difficult to run programs, even without the cuts.
“Due to new lease arrangements enforced by council, we are now also required to absorb all maintenance costs,” she said.
“Just changing our light globes can now cost over $100 each time as we have to get in an electrician due to the height of the ceilings,” Ms Balthazar said. “In the past we were able to co-ordinate our jobs with the shire’s to minimise cost to hire tradesman.”
Centres in Gisborne, Kyneton and Woodend will also be affected by the changes.
A joint submission urging the council to overturn the funding decision will be made this week.
Macedon Ranges’ director community wellb eing Karen Stevens said neighbourhood and community houses were the responsibility of the State Government, but that the council “has supported these programs over a number of years with in-kind support and financial contributions”.
“There are also council grant programs that neighbourhood houses are able to apply for,” she said.
Ms Stevens said because of rate-capping the council had to reduce support for programs that were the responsibility of other levels of government.