Council waives penalties in response to pandemic

YARRIAMBIACK  Shire Council will waive interest charges for ratepayers, penalties  on animal registrations, and health premise registrations in order to provide relief for residents strained by COVID-19 restrictions.

Council will grant residents greater leniency to pay off their rates under the strain of the pandemic, with rates being collected as normal but council extending the due date for the fourth quarter rates payment and interest application deferrals on overdue rates until to 30 June, also allowing for a case-by-case review.

Mayor Graeme Massey said that the relief offered by council was in recognition that residents are now faced with greater challenges.

“Council will waive interest on 2019/20 rates arrears and penalties on animal registrations and health premise registration because we understand that residents have bigger challenges they are facing right now,” he said.

“Council will continue to work with Local Government industry as well as State and Federal Governments to identify the best way to assist the community through this period and through the recovery phase.”

Outstanding rates for Yarriambiack Shire this financial year stands at around $1.5  million at the moment, with council recently recouping over $120,000 from the shire’s biggest properties in arrears.

The new measures comes as councillors considered council’s Pandemic Influenza Plan (PIP), based closely off the state’s plan, which details council’s emergency management, responsibilities and services during public health crisis.

The PIP includes precautionary measures for council staff and council’s business continuity plan in order to ensure that residents have access to critical services.

Local council has also approached the state’s local government authority, Local Government Victoria to change the ruling which will allow councillors to hold official council meetings remotely in light of new social distancing restrictions.

This comes after Wednesday’s council meeting was shortened, with most council agenda items being deliberated electronically the day before.

“Currently there is a request to Local Government Victoria to be able to hold council meetings through video call which hopefully should be approved in the next week or two,” Yarriambiack Shire Council Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Jessie Holmes said.

Anticipating a situation where councillors were unable to reconvene for the next council meeting due to the coronavirus, councillors passed an urgent motion which would give the council CEO greater powers to authorise council works of up to $800,000.

Under the new arrangements, the council CEO has greater financial delegation powers to approve works, good and services which would have to be in  accordance with council’s budget and guidelines.

“I would still have to meet procurement guidelines and all funding would have to be in accord with the council’s budget, which would then be reviewed by council,” Ms Holmes said.

“But this would only happen if council cannot meet.”

Other items on council’s agenda included changes to  forecasted council expenditure for the 2019/20 budget, including increased funding for road resheets and IT equipment upgrades.

An additional $300,000 was granted to the Yarriambiack Council under the Federal Government’s Road to Recovery assistance grant program which will go towards the resheeting of local roads.

Another $300,000 will be used to fund IT equipment upgrades, with preschools set to receive $26,000 from the state’s education department, the Victorian Department of Education and Training.