© istockphoto.com/Petrea Alexandru

Tight budget will affect projects

IN one of the ‘tightest budgets ever’, Ballina Shire councillors have been told they will not be able to fund additional projects unless existing services are cut.

The 2010/11 draft operating budget, which was presented to councillors last week, shows a $189,000 deficit – worse than the previous financial year.

But staff said it had been ‘extremely difficult to try to achieve even a reasonably small deficit’.

This is because the rate pegging limit was set at just 2.6 per cent by the State Government, which will bring in $14 million for the council.

Staff said other factors which contributed to the tight financial situation included superannuation expenses, falling cash investment portfolio and reduced interest earned, new assets to maintain, and a decline in the real value of the Financial Assistance Grant.

The council is still finalising its submission for a special variation to the pegging limit.

This would increase rates by an extra 4pc for the next five years.

Cr Ben Smith said it was ‘annoying’ that the council’s income was so limited.

“The reality is that we need more income to deliver more services,” he said.

“There needs to be a large funding change to get where we need to be.

“In real terms we are practically going backwards.

“We have to keep pushing for the special rate variations, because then we would be able to better achieve the things that the community deserves.

“I hope we get it (the special variation). We should encourage the community to get behind us and support us.”

A special rate variation was the only way the council would ‘get the increase it needs’, according to Cr Peter Moore.

“Otherwise we will have to start hacking away at the budget and that’s when you will get the community screaming at you,” he said.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader said it was the tightest budget she had ever seen.

“I know there are items that are not included in this draft budget, but I can see that there are no extra resources,” she said.

Chairing the finance committee meeting, Cr David Wright agreed.

He said if you want something extra in the budget, you have to take something out, otherwise it comes back to bite you twice.

General manager Paul Hickey said applying for the special rate variation was not about ‘trying to whack the community too hard’.

But he said it was the only way certain projects could be allocated money.

Some of the projects that the council would be able to fund through a special rate variation include:

New roof for the Ballina Players theatre – $42,000.

Repairs to the Ballina pool – $20,000.

Asbestos removal program – $25,000.

Improvements to the Lennox foreshore park – $200,000.

Sandblasting and gas heaters at the Alstonville pool – $191,000.

Wardell boat ramp – $100,000.

Improvements to Pat Morton Lookout – $200,000.

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