MARK EDWARDS EXPLAINS THE COUNCIL 2022-23 BUDGET IN DETAIL IN RELATION TO OUR ISLANDS By Cr Mark Edwards
This year’s Council budget presented a number of challenges to ensure the operation of Council is sustainable and has minimum impact of ratepayers. Global supply issues, availability of materials and tradespeople as well as the ongoing effects of Covid, has pushed prices up and created longer timeframes in delivering projects. The minimum general rate for category 1a (owner occupied homes) increased by 4.72% or just under $1 per week. To avoid a higher increase, Council decided to have a $4.1 million operating deficit and has substantial funds to cover. Across the city we have seen property values rise to an average of 25%. Most islanders ask for information around capital works programs that have a direct relationship to the islands. The main projects and budget allocations are summarised as follows; Drainage renewal High Street and Bamboo Street ($100,000), Footpath Jock Kennedy Park to Ferry Terminal ($154,000), Drainage upgrade and expansion Alison Crescent ($75,514), Drainage upgrade and expansion Calm Water Crescent ($132,222), Drainage upgrade and expansion Centre Road culvert ($167,000), Drainage upgrade and expansion Panaroo Street ($30,000), Coast Road Foreshore park ($60,000), Dog Off Leash Area Attunga Street ($40,000), Karragarra Ferry Terminal ($1,595,417), Lamb Island Ferry Terminal ($2,133,697), Commuter Exchange and car park Russell Island ($1,980,000), Commuter Exchange Lamb Island ($984,502), Commuter Exchange Karragarra Island ($1,095,140), Lions Boulevard Park upgrade ($401,250), Weinam Creek Terminal roads ($2,000,000), Weinam Creek open space ($1,000,000), Weinam Creek footpaths and cycleways ($2,000,000) These capital works projects alone total nearly $14,000,000 and represents Council’s ongoing commitment to the islands. What was not funded in the budget is the continuance of the road sealing program which is so important to the community. Whilst there is hope that road sealing funds can be included in a budget review, similar to a previous year, there is no guarantee it will be. There has been opinions expressed that the Council should scale back on capital works programs and that has included reducing the funds that are spent on the islands. Fortunately the budget was approved by a majority of Councillors and the programs listed will progress. To give an insight of the financial sustainability of Council, the Council’s Statement of Financial Position is the best place to start. Council holds $208 million in cash deposits and borrowings of $40 million. Council’s net community assets stand at $2.87 billion dollars and for the three-year forecast the asset values increase year-on-year. Council has decided to have a forecast operating deficit of $4.1 million this year instead of having a higher rate rise. However, the following two years are forecast to be back to surplus. Council’s 10 year forecast demonstrates an ability to fund major capital works programs through historically low interest loans and remain financially sustainable with high cash reserves. The argument should not be to decrease island funding but to consider increasing the capital works projects that are needed now, through long term, low-interest loans.