Eurobodalla Council facing serious deficit

May 18, 2023 7:15 am in by

Eurobodalla Council faces an $8 million deficit despite tightening its belt under new General Manager, Warwick Winn.

Council is looking for feedback on its work plan for next financial year revealing the news its draft 2023-24 Operational Plan is expected to record a “serious” $8 million deficit.

The draft Operational Plan – along with the draft Fees and Charges and draft 2023-33 Long-Term Financial Plan – is on public exhibition until Tuesday June 6.

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To keep the community updated about Council’s financial position and how it relates to the work plan, General Manager Warwick Winn and Director of Finance Stephanie Speedy will provide briefings in three locations next week to explain the organisation’s current financial challenges and service delivery now and into the future.

“The draft 2023-24 Operational Plan lists 212 actions across 31 Council service areas. We are continuing our strong record of service and infrastructure delivery,” Mr Winn said.

“However, like many councils across the state, we are facing a serious operating deficit. Councillors and staff have been working to address these financial challenges since December last year, and we have managed to reduce the deficit from $13M to $8M by reprioritising and staging next year’s work plan and by using grant funds to support already programmed works and services. Additionally, a finance strategy will be prepared later this year that will see us living within our means to achieve long term financial sustainability,” he said.

“These community briefings are an opportunity for residents to learn more about our challenges.”

The community briefings will be held at:
-Batemans Bay Library – Monday 22 May from 4.30pm to 6pm
-Narooma Library – Wednesday 24 May from 4.30pm to 6pm
-Moruya Library – Thursday 25 May from 4.30pm to 6pm

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Bookings through Council’s website are essential.

Ms Speedy told East Coast radio Council is aiming to continue its strong record of service and infrastructure delivery despite the deficit but there’s no quick fix.

“Reducing council’s operating deficit is a challenging journey and it’s not one we can make overnight,” Speedy said.

“Councillors and senior staff have already got together to work through some of the challenges around that space,” she continued.

“Council need to develop short, medium and long term actions in order to tackle these financial challenges, so in the short term we’re looking at revenue opportunities and minimising cost exposures,”

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“We’re also reprioritising our significant capital works program and considering our grant strategy in light of current programmed works.”

General Manger Winn said the draft plan represents a financial ‘year zero’ for Council.

“Increases in rates, fees and charges remain moderate for 2023-24, with general rates going up by 4.3 percent in line with IPART’s rate pegging figure.

“Other increases – listed in the draft 2023-24 revenue policy – include environmental levies and typical waste collection charges by 4.3 percent, water charges by 4.17 percent for access and 2.56 percent for usage, and sewer charges by 4.85 percent for access and 4.88 percent for usage.”

Mr Winn said the 2023-24 work plan will see Council wrap up an unprecedented program of grant funded and disaster recovery work.

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“Going forward, we will be smarter about the grants we chase. They should pay for work already on the books, not add more work on top. If we can do that we will start living within our means and hopefully avoid service reductions or having to pursue special rates variations,” he said.

“Some new additions to the work plan this year include making our rapid response team a permanent arrangement and the start of a program of upgrades and improvements to the shire’s 67 public toilets.

“We will developing and introducing free tip vouchers for residents who live in the shire’s more remote areas where kerbside collection is not available. And in September, residents will be able to drop off their green waste free of charge at our tips to coincide with the Rural Fire Service annual ‘Get Ready’ weekend.

“We’ll also permanently introduce an online community engagement platform to complement our in-person opportunities. Housing affordability, diversity and supply will remain a focus, with a masterplan for Batemans Bay to create potential for increased building heights and infill development underway, and work to start on planning the infrastructure needed to bring up to 1,000 new housing lots to the market in South Moruya.”

Following public exhibition, councillors will be presented with a report of community submissions alongside the finalised 2023-24 Operational Plan, 2023-24 Fees and Charges, and the 2023-33 Long-Term Financial Plan for consideration and adoption.

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Images: Eurobodalla Shire Council