Last-ditch pleas from community groups fell on deaf ears last night as the Lismore City Council approved its $134 million budget for 2014/2015.
The groups included the Lismore Showgrounds Trust, the Lismore sub-branch of the RSL, the Lismore Musical Society and the Lismore Friends of the Koala.
Showgrounds Trust spokesman Andrew Gordon asked the council to reconsider decreasing its annual contribution from $20,000 to $16,000.
Mr Gordon pointed out that the Trust had to maintain the 28-hectare historic site with dwindling financial resources as a result of ever increasing expenses and maintenance charges.
He said the showgrounds hosted more than 200,000 visitors at the grounds each year, pumping around $16 million into the local economy.
Heather Sidney and Val Axtens from the Lismore Musical Festival Society also appealed for an exemption from the 20 per cent reduction in grants to community groups, but to no avail.
Wilson McClelland from the Lismore sub-branch of the RSL spoke about the lack of access to the WW1 memorials, which were not open to the public during winter because the memorial baths pool is closed in winter.
He was told the council was hoping that it would receive a grant from the State Government, but would not be changing its budget.
Former Lismore mayor Ros Irwin spoke for ‘the koalas of Lismore’, expressing concern at the lack of staffing to help implement the council’s Koala Plan of Management.
Under the Lismore City Council budget, the council officer who had been working on the plan will be required to switch focus to the proposed North Lismore plateau development, for which the council plans to borrow around $6 million for wastewater and water infrastructure.
‘The council isn’t broke, it’s about the choices you make,’ said Ms Irwin, dismissing a staff comment that a person to drive the strategy would cost $103,800 a year.
She said a full time council officer for a shorter period of time would cost around $45,000, or a $1 from every Lismore local government resident, but would enable the plan to progress instead of ‘sitting on a shelf’.
After considering the submissions, however, councillors stuck with the staff recommendation to approve the budget, with only Crs Greg Bennett and Gianpiero Battista voting against, with Cr Graham Meinke absent.
Mayor Jenny Dowell, deputy Neil Marks, Crs Simon Clough, Vanessa Ekins, Ray Houston, Glenys Ritchie, Mathew Scheibel and Isaac Smith supported the recommendation to approve the yearly budget with some amendments.
The budget is part of the 10-year Imagine Lismore plan, which brought the community together to chart its priorities and visions for the future.
As part of that process, the council has developed plans for one year, four years, and ten years based on extensive community consultations.
With almost $30 million being channeled into fixing up the road network, the council’s other major expenditures will include $11.156 million for wastewater infrastructure, almost $5 million for water infrastructure, and more than $6 million for infrastructure for the proposed North Lismore plateau housing development.
The council also considered its rates and charges for the coming year.
As part of the approved budget, fees and charges will generally increase by the CPI and the full increase of 2.3 per cent allowed under the rate pegging regime has been applied.
That means the average urban residential rate will increase by $25.42 to $1130.85.
The residential water bill will increase to $712, an increase of $64 and the residential wastewater charge will increase to $772, which is an increase of $34.
The integrated waste service charge will increase to $279.10 – an increase of $8.10 or 2.99 per cent.
According to the council, the typical urban residential bill for all services for 2014/15 will be $2966.43.