Council ready to hear funding submissions

Gang members, basketball players, sculptors and church administrators will be among a cross-section of Dunedin's community to stand before the city council and make their requests this week as the latest council budget meeting begins.

Not only are 176 individuals and groups set to personally put their cases to the council, they are seeking support, in principle and financially, for a wide variety of projects and desires - from cat and bicycle registration, to a new sports hub behind Logan Park High School, cycleways, a new pool in Mosgiel, a trust to make public art decisions and saving the Digital Office.

There are also three specific topics mentioned on submission forms, which dozens will also speak about.

Nearly 600 people have offered views about in which order the remaining unimproved sections of Portobello Rd and Harington Point Rd should be widened.

Almost 300 have submitted a view on Waipori Fund's ethical investment strategy, most favouring taking an ethical investment approach but with differing views about what categories of investment should be excluded, and more than 230 submitters are largely in favour of the council investing more in heritage building re-use incentives.

It will be up to the council to juggle tight budgets and the various pleas for extra spending as it begins hearing this morning from some of the 1119 submitters with views on the council's 2014-15 draft annual plan, which sets out council spending for the coming financial year.

It continues a disciplinary stance on new or additional funding, the council having already trimmed more than $3 million from its own budgets as part of its third consecutive year of pushing to cut costs, and keeps the forecast rates increase to 3%.

Staff are also expected to report next week that they have found another $1 million savings or income, to keep the rates rise at 3% despite expecting Forsyth Barr Stadium to be about $1 million under budget again, also for the third consecutive year.

That would bring the total ratepayers contribute to the venue's cost annually to more than $10 million.

The year-on-year call for top-ups from the council is hoped to be addressed following a major review, due mid-year, of the way the venue is being operated.

The draft plan includes a relatively small amount of proposed new spending, $454,000, in areas where the council believed spending would have long-term benefits, such as to support heritage building owners who need to redevelop and/or strengthen their buildings, seed funding for the Mosgiel Pool project and small investments in food resilience and energy efficiency.

A remaining $179,000 savings identified has been earmarked to repay debt.

That has not stopped a list of requests for extra funding from community groups across the city.

Among them are a request for $10,000 to trial a trust that would select public art for the city, an extra $20,000 for the trust that would develop plans for a new Mosgiel pool, an extra $27,000 for Olveston, and $75,000 to establish a queer community development role.

The Methodist Mission is back to ask for $40,000 to help pay for an independent advocacy programme, Basketball Otago has asked for $30,000 to help cover venue hire fees at the Edgar Centre, and Film Otago Southland seeks $20,000 to help cover its costs.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said this was the best opportunity for the council to judge how the community felt on matters, and it was great to see so many people getting involved in the process.

The hearing begins today at 9am and is expected to conclude on Friday.

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