By Michael Sinclair-Jones
LOCAL property owners will not have to pay higher rates next month as the Toodyay Shire Council makes emergency cuts to its 2020-21 budget and braces for a series of major changes in coming months.
The shire has axed four staff positions – including Manager of Community Development – to save a total of $600,000 a year from next month.
It coincides with the expected arrival of new Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst a day before a scheduled June 23 ordinary council meeting, news that the result of a long-running WA Government inquiry into the shire is a step closer to being tabled in State Parliament and another shire election due next month.Read more
New Shire President Rosemary Madacsi called the election (shire notice Herald Page 13) last month to fill a vacancy on the nine-member council to replace former shire president Bill Manning who resigned in April to move to Tasmania.
Shire rates in the dollar will stay at last year’s levels, and any increases in State land valuations will not be added to rates bills.
Shire fees and charges – including for rubbish collection – will not increase, overdue rates will not be charged interest and property owners will not pay extra for paying their rates in quarterly instalments.
Owners who pay in full by the due date will get a three per cent discount instead of going into a draw for sponsored prizes.
Acting Shire CEO Chileya Luangala confirmed last month that the new budget would include all measures adopted at a Covid-19 special council meeting in April.
She said councillors had met eight times since December to discuss shire finances and a further budget meeting was planned before a 4pm agenda briefing scheduled for Tuesday June 16.
Savings of about $600,000 had been made by last month by making four staff positions redundant.
Savings included employee direct and on-costs, vehicle-related costs, fringe benefits tax and “associated reductions in services”.
Meanwhile, the WA Local Government Department says State lawyers have finished examining a report by three Perth investigators into shire operations and affairs over the past seven years.
The State Solicitor’s Office returned the report to the department after deciding whether to extract any evidence that could be used for a prosecution before the report is sent to the shire for comment and then tabled in State Parliament by WA Local Government Minister David Templeman.
The inquiry covers present and former shire councillors and staff, including former shire CEO Stan Scott whose 12-month ‘interim’ contract was cut short in April after the council rejected his bid last year to keep his job for another three to four years.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst has signed a four-year contract and is due to start later this month.
An eight-day nomination period for next month’s council election to fill a vacancy created by former president Bill Manning s resignation in April will open on Wednesday June 17 and close at 4pm on Wednesday June 24.
The WA Electoral Commission will conduct a postal ballot of all Toodyay voters with a bulk mail out of candidates’ statements and voting forms starting Thursday July 2.
The electoral roll closes on Thursday June 25.
Property owners who live outside the shire should check if they are still on the electoral roll under voting rules which require their details to be updated every 12 months.