Capel debates rates increase

Callum HunterSouth Western Times

Tensions were running high at the Capel Shire Council’s special meeting as councillors attempted to settle on a rates increase for the coming financial year.

Three weeks ago at the last ordinary council meeting, the council rejected the staff recommendation of a 4 per cent increase, opting instead to see the re-modelled figures for a 3 per cent rise.

A crowd of more than 30 people filled the gallery, eager to hear what the increase would be as some councillors were moved to tears by recent comments made on social media and the pressures surrounding the decision.

Shire president Murray Scott said he did not appreciate the comments being made online, but he did appreciate his fellow councillors’ passion and commitment.

“It was a very well done meeting,” he said.

“What was said and the end result of 3 per cent, I’m quite happy with.

“I appreciated what Brian said and what he was trying to get across.”

Cr Brian Hearne was the first to speak after standing orders were lifted for the debate and took the opportunity to explain some of the projected figures for the proposed rates, chief among which was the $125,000 deficit each lowered per cent would create in the budget.

Councillors Barry Bell and Sebastian Schiano supported Cr Hearne’s views and argued the council could deal with the $125,000 deficit if it “lived within its means” and that 3 per cent was “what the community has said is reasonable.”

The amendment of the recommendation to a 3 per cent increase was passed 7-1, the only challenger being Cr Michael Southwell, who said the only acceptable increase was no increase, a notion that gained huge support from the people in the gallery.

Cr Southwell said the council had to stop worrying about projects and initiatives and get back to putting families first and ensuring they could make ends meet.

Councillors will return to the chambers tomorrow at 4.30pm to vote on the proposed 3 per cent increase.

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