Councillor Warren Polglase has warned ratepayers to prepare for belt tightening.
Councillor Warren Polglase has warned ratepayers to prepare for belt tightening. Blainey Woodham /

Councillors only spent “60 minutes” on $215m budget

A BALANCED $215 million Budget was handed down by Tweed Shire councillors last night, but not without a stern warning the belt will have to tighten to meet future demands.

Ratepayers will not have to fork out too much extra next financial year, with an average increase of around $17 per year - or 1.8% - to be charged to home owners, in keeping with NSW Government pegging.

Acting Mayor Gary Bagnall, filling in for Mayor Katie Milne who remains on sick leave until June 27, made no comment as councillors adopted the 2016/2017 Budget, which has passed through a number of community consultations since May.

But Councillor Warren Polgiase warned a 1.8% rate hike and $500,000 increase in staff wages would mean council would have to cut costs or create new revenue streams to meet with the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future criteria.

“We are being continually pushed and pushed to take on more and more responsibility, which this council cannot in the future sustain,” Cr Polglase said.

“We’ve had a 1.8% rate increase, and an increase in wages that’s about 2.8% - that’s $500,000 we have to draw out this year.

“Councils of the future will have to give serious consideration of how we spend and disperse our money.

“We’re no different to a household with a minimal income where you have to keep down expenses to look after the family.”

Cr Polglase was also scathing over the handling of the budget, saying it “didn’t go down well” with him that The City of Gold Coast’s budget was presided over three days while “we spent 60 minutes doing a $215 million budget.”

“I can remember past councils where we spent a good four to five hours going through the budget, line by line,” Cr Polgalse said, calling for more rigour.

But general manager Troy Green was quick defend the process; saying council had a 10-year plan in line with State Government requirements, meaning the process was simpler than in previous years.

Mr Green assured the Shire had a “balanced budget, in a strong position”, but had to deal with challenges like award wage increases and rate pegging set by the state government.

Cr Barry Longland said the budget was a consequence of more than six months of input from council officers, which included a 64-page document and consultation with the shire’s nine ratepayer groups.

Cr Phil Youngblutt agreed the shire had a balanced budget.

“But I’d like to point out it gets harder and harder to do that and unless there’s other sources of income then in the future services will have to be cut,” he said.

Financial services manager Michael Chorlton said council was limited in its ability to increase income unless it pursued commercial ventures.

Local governments can make money from tourist holiday parks, real estate developments, abbatoirs and letting of commercial space and parking fees.

Council has to address the Fit for the Future criteria because it was previously deemed below benchmark by IPART, but is expected to resubmit its fit criteria by mid-July.

RATE INCREASES:

Ordinary minimum rate:

  • Residential: $990 goes up to $1007
  • Business: $1088 goes up to $1107
  • Farmland: $990 goes up to $1007

BUDGET BY NUMBERS:

  • $55m: rates income
  • $23m: fees and charges income
  • $214m: expenditure
  • $1.3m: M’bah swimming pool
  • $336,000 pest management
  • $181,000: noxious weeds
  • $784,000: public toilets
  • $5000: needle disposal bins in toilets
  • $1000: town clock maintenance

MAJOR PROJECTS:

  • $1.8m Tweed Heads Library Expansion/Re-fit
  • $2.1m Clarrie Hall Dam Raising (preliminary costs)
  • $3m Kennedy Drive - Limosa Avenue to Cobaki Creek Bridge
  • $1.7m Tumbulgum Road, Tygalgah
  • $776,000 Cudgen Creek Bridge (1 of 2 year funding)


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