Hobsons Bay council has adopted its annual budget, despite concern that allocating $4.59million to build an Altona early years hub will seal the fate of local kindergartens.
The budget includes more than $34million on capital works, $118million on operational expenditure and an average rate increase of 2 per cent.
It includes $7.4million for open space, $6.7million for roads, $3.8million for footpaths and bike paths, $2.7million for plant and equipment and $11.4million for buildings, with the hub being the most expensive project.
Councillors Tony Briffa and Michael Grech said while they supported the overall budget, the funding allocation for a new hub on the Altona P-9 College site meant supporting the closure of Altona and Seaholme kindergartens.
Cr Briffa told last week’s council meeting that the hub and the future of the kindergartens were intertwined.
“They are inextricably linked and we are making an allocation of $4.59million for a hub that is going to make local kindergartens unviable, so that is definitely my consideration,” Cr Briffa said.
Cr Grech asked if the previous council, which did not include himself or Cr Briffa, had known local kinders would be closed when it voted in favour of a new hub.
“When council resolved on the 26th of April, 2016, to construct a hub, were council fully informed that in order to make a hub viable, kindergartens would have to be closed?”
Community wellbeing director Peter Hunt replied that the councillors had been briefed a number of times.
“I think we had three fortnights in a row when we had briefings to the council so the councillors were well aware of the challenges posed by a small catchment and an oversupply of places.”
Cr Briffa moved a budget amendment to allocate but not use the money for the hub until the future of the kindergartens was decided, but this only gained support from Cr Grech.
The council meeting heard that a report on kinders in the precinct would come to the council in September and a contract to build the hub was expected to be awarded in October.