Council says no to funds for school theatre

Hobsons Bay council has voted 4-3 against allocating $100,000 in its budget towards Williamstown High School’s new theatre.

Councillors Carl Marsich, Sandra Wilson and Jason Price spoke against funding the school at last week’s council meeting, saying ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for a state government facility.

The school received $500,000 towards the theatre in the state budget. It applied to the council for budget funds, saying there was a $350,000-$400,000 shortfall to complete the theatre’s $2.5 million first stage.

In his budget submission, school council president Hugh Jones said “ratepayers would see this as a worthwhile investment in their children’s education” and suggested the council buy between five and 10 theatre seats for $5000 each or the entire front row for $100,000.

Cr Peter Hemphill’s proposed allocation of $100,000 was supported by fellow Strand ward councillors Angela Altair and Paul Morgan.

“I think actually we probably should be putting in more money than this and there were some discussions during the week that maybe we should,” Cr Hemphill said.

“I’m happy to support $100,000 as we heard with the budget submission a couple of weeks ago [the theatre] would be available for community use.”

Cr Altair said the school was founded with council funding and, as such, “it was a unique relationship forged between the council, our forebears, [the high school] and the community”.

“I’d argue that this fairly modest allocation will not only reignite those ties that go back to the 19th century but will serve to provide a state-of-the-art, 300-seat performing arts theatre for a very modest investment by this council.”

Cr Morgan described it as an “insignificant cost” and said it was “community building”, not cost shifting.

Mayor Colleen Gates voted against providing funds for the theatre and the motion was lost.

The budget, which proposed an average rate increase of four per cent, was unanimously adopted. It allocates $97million in operating expenditure and $32.1million in capital works.