Brunker responds to ‘bad finances’ claims flung at council
A COUNCILLOR has slammed “ill-informed” people for suggesting the council was in a “bad financial position” after the council handed down their 2020/21 budget yesterday.
Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker also emphasised council’s “very sound position” and addressed claims he said had been spread on social media regarding the council’s finances.
“That’s from ill-informed people who think they know things but they don’t,” he said.
“(It’s) just a load of rot.
“Some of the statements was previously that council is in a bad financial position because they can’t pay their debt off. Now, nobody in Australia and no business in the world can go in and pay their debt off all in one go.
“Council is in a very sound position, but we have a very minimal surplus, a $100,000 surplus, because things are tough.
“We’re looking at every way we can save money under these times, which council should always do anyway.
“We realise that we can’t be putting the rates up and up and up.
“The easiest for us to do is say, ‘Righto, we’re going to mow our parks and gardens once a week, drop our service levels in town on cleaning and all that sort of stuff’.
“So people will drive around town and you’ve got grass at Christmas time a foot high and the place looking like the bloody dump, but you can’t do that.
“We’ve got service levels there that the public expect us to do. They like to go and see the play equipment, they like to go and see pristine parks and rubbish picked up and the side of the road mowed and all that, so for the service levels we’ve got, there is a cost in that.”
Crunching the numbers, the council is projected to maintain a surplus, or funds left over, of just over $109,000 under the new budget.
The “back to basics budget” will also focus on debt reduction with no new loans to be taken out.
The budget documents stated that council’s loan balances had risen to almost $85 million over the past three years because of significant capital programs, with projects including the Shute Harbour marine terminal upgrade.
The new budget forecasts that with no loan funding, council is set to repay $5 million in loans during the year.
At yesterday’s meeting, Cr Willcox said this proved council was in a sound financial position despite challenges posed as a result of coronavirus.
“Almost $5 million has been allocated to reduce our current loans, meaning council will end the next financial year with a debt of approximately $79.7 million and an asset base of $1.2 billion,” he said.
“In simple terms, that compares to effectively owing $80,000 on a $1.2 million home.
“Most of us would take that every day of the week.”
Rates and utility charges make up 75 per cent of the council’s income, with fees and charges for services making up 16 per cent of income.
For outgoings, 45 per cent of council expenses come from materials and services followed by employee salaries, wages and benefits, which sit at 32 per cent.
Council had an operating surplus of $36,000 in the 2018/19 financial year and a $2,707,000 surplus in 2019/20.
The projected surplus for this year of $109,000 was forecast to rise in the 2021/22 and 2022/23 financial years to above $500,000.
Cr Willcox encouraged anyone with questions about the budget or council’s financial position to contact the council.
“All the information is publicly available. We do a full financial report every month, it’s on the website,” he said.
“The council is not the CIA, we’re there to serve the people so any information people want, they ask us the question and they get told.”