Thrifty council in the black
TWEED ratepayers were forced to fork out more for councillor expenses in the last financial year, but did save $1 million in electricity and heating costs, Budget figures released on Thursday have revealed.
The findings were handed down at an extraordinary meeting on Thursday, where councillors met to accept the annual Audit Committee Annual Report for the 2014–2015 financial year, which provides an analysis of the shire’s $3 billion asset base and its running costs.
The papers show councillors’ expenses increased by $13,000 to $33,000 in the year to June 30, which Corporate Services director Liz Collyer later attributed to an increase in the number of events attended by councillors.
The report found council had saved more than $1 million on electricity and heating costs, including $200,000 on street lighting. It also slashed its legal costs on planning and developments close to half, to $444,000.
Budget papers revealed council collected a total of $96 million in rates and annual charges.
Residents will pay an increase of 2.4% in rates next year, in line with the pegged rate set for local government by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
But the focus of the night was financial stability, with Mayor Katie Milne quizzing staff on the shire’s eligibility to meet IPART’s controversial Fit for the Future report, which found Tweed along with 60% of NSW councils financially unfit.
Financial staff reassured councillors that based on new figures the Tweed had a performance ratio of 5.4% and not -8%, as previously submitted to IPART, with the benchmark “anywhere from zero”. The Tweed’s asset depreciation was also overestimated by $2 million.
General manager Troy Green said the findings meant the shire was “living within our means”.
“That’s without taking our rates up by 26%, like Penrith,” Mr Green said.
Cr Warren Polglase quizzed staff on why the shire’s overdue construction works had jumped by $1 million, to reach $35m in total, which he said was more than double that of five years ago.
Engineering director David Oxenham said the money had been given to council through grants.
AT A GLANCE
Mayoral fee $39k
Councillors’ fees $137k
TOTAL LAND VALUE
Parking fines $414k
Other fines $141k
Interest on overdue rates $475k
Caravan park fees $8.5m
residential rates $44.6m
$31m roads & transport