Ms Adriana Christopoulos
The things that keep me up at night!
Firstly, I want to thank Cr Jasmine Berry for representing the Gault Ward and the City of Mitcham for the past two years. She has represented her ward with the utmost fairness, integrity and respect. It was such a shame that she was not treated in the same manner after a recent social media post unravelled and one could only assume this was part of her decision to exit Local Government. Jasmine, thank you for your contribution, you will be missed!
Cr Berry's exit has led to a second by-election in the ward, and with the first by-election already underway, it is so important that the culture and needs of the local community are represented on the Council.
COVID-19 has certainly taken its toll on our community and I am really pleased that Mitcham Council's decision to support the community with targeted rate relief has been taken up by residents who need this assistance.
Currently, the Council is deliberating its rates for 2020/2021, with a 1.9% increase in rates having been presented to the community during consultation. This figure is also tied to the development of the Blackwood Library/ Community Hub. For your information, feedback from the community has been minimal, certainly less than other years, with some of the commentaries received reflecting varying sentiments on the design and the cost.
The debate in the Chamber has been robust, with some councillors desperately wanting to progress this project, seeing it as an opportunity for targeted local growth in Blackwood and an increase in jobs through infrastructure spending. Whilst this is very noble, I can't get past the fact that our current debt is already at $22.2 million and that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are about to sting with the Federal Government’s probable removal of Jobkeeper and Jobseeker payments.
The economic landscape is forever changing and unpredictable and, with rate capping back on the State Government’s agenda, this is not the time for large infrastructure spends.
Personally, I cannot accept that the costs attached to this project, which are around $20 to $22 million, are the best use of ratepayers’ money. Further, I do not agree with some Elected Members who would like to borrow against our net liability ratio to levels that would leave us exposed, should we require borrowing for an emergency.
I would prefer to see a much lower scale project presented. There are just so many other options that we haven’t investigated, such as redeveloping the existing site or separating the library development from the Waite Street Reserve.
This build is also dependent on many things such as State Government funding of up to $5 million which has not been secured, delaying the upkeep of other assets such as footpaths and possibly the sale of other Council-owned assets.
My promise to the community when I was elected, was to always keep our rates as low as possible, and for me, that has not changed.