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Draft budget now on public exhibition

A Draft Operational Plan and Budget with a focus on back to basics service delivery and improved financial results is now on public exhibition until Thursday, 24 June 2021.

The draft documents were endorsed for public exhibition on Wednesday at the Council Meeting and detail the proposed activities and budget and supporting rates, charges and fees for the 2021-2022 financial year. The 2021-2022 financial year will also see the introduction of the harmonisation of rates between the former Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire Councils proposed to be undertaken over four years.

Armidale Regional Council General Manager James Roncon said it was important for residents to have their say on the proposed increases to fees and charges, the budget and financial direction of Council. Community consultation is also being undertaken on the proposed four year rates harmonisation implementation framework.

“This budget is the first step of a long and disciplined road in maintaining levels of service to the community and improving Council’s financial position,” said Mr Roncon.

“The Council’s financial position is dire but this year’s budget is about bringing Council to a point where we can deliver basic services and set a foundation that addresses the requirement of the Performance Improvement Order that Council is operating under.

“This also means we need to keep saving money to build up our available funds for at least the next three or four budgets to enable Council to address the condition of some of our assets that are deteriorating. At the moment we are predominantly relying on State and Federal grants to address deteriorating assets and fund new ones. This isn’t sustainable and Council needs to be able to have cash reserves available to contribute to improving our assets or for any unexpected situation.”

Council’s financial position has been impacted by the recent drought, bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021-2022 Draft Operational Plan and Budget attempts to mitigate these impacts as far as possible without cuts to services. The budget position will be supported with strategies to ensure costs are tightly controlled and financial management across the business is a key priority.

“When you review the proposed budget you will see a modest surplus has been forecast for the general, water and sewer funds, which looks positive and is testament to the hard work of Council officers but doesn’t really tell you the complete picture,” said Mr Roncon.

 “Consider when you do your own family budgets. The house needs a new roof but you will need to save up over many years to pay for it. You’d also like a new car. It’s not essential but wouldn’t it be nice. If you try to fix the roof quickly and buy the new car you’ll spend all your available budget in that year and you won’t have enough money left to live on. This is the same for council’s budget.

“Our assets are similar to fixing your roof. We’d really like to do it now but don’t have enough cash in reserves, it will take many years of saving and reducing our annual expenditure. This includes new projects that would be great assets to the community but are not essential at this time.”

There is some good news to come out of the 2021-2022 Draft Operational Plan and Budget. Council has been able to take advantage of considerable stimulus funding provided by State and Federal Governments to combat the negative effects of the drought, bushfires and the pandemic.

Council was also successful in obtaining approval to turn a temporary Special Rate Variation into a permanent one from 2021-2022 financial year. This will provide critical funding for asset renewal.

In 2021-2022 Council will direct $5.8 million into key asset renewal programs including kerb and gutter and footpath replacement, urban and rural road re-sealing, gravel re-sheeting, stormwater drainage and building renewals.

With the inclusion of over $36 million in capital grants, Council’s 2021-2022 capital program totals $65 million.

“Critical infrastructure renewal like the Dumaresq Dam wall strengthening, Puddledock Dam pipeline rehabilitation and the significant expenditure on the essential improvements to the Kempsey Road would not happen without support from the State and Federal Government,” said Mr Roncon.

“However it must also be remembered that these projects also require expenditure and resources from Council’s own finances, further straining and lengthening the time it will take to restore Council’s finances.”

Council is encouraging the community to have your say on The Draft Operational Plan and Budget 2021-2022 until Thursday 24 June, 2021. The suite of documents on public exhibition include:

These documents and a number of fact sheets highlighting proposed changes to rates and charges are available to view on Council’s your say online engagement hub. Yoursay.armidale.nsw.gov.au

Hard copies will also be available at the Civic Administration Buildings in Armidale and Guyra and at the libraries.

Council will be hosting two information sessions. In Armidale on Tuesday 8 June from 5.30pm at the Council Chambers and in Guyra on Wednesday 9 June from 5.30pm in the Guyra Council Chambers. Staff will present the Draft Operational Plan and Budget 2021-2022 and conduct a Q&A session. Registration is not essential but numbers are limited. If you are unable to attend a session both meetings will be live streamed on our youtube channel.

Submissions are invited and must be addressed to the General Manager, Armidale Regional Council, via post to PO Box 75A, Armidale NSW 2350 or sent by email to council@armidale.nsw.gov.au Submissions can also be dropped off at either the Armidale or Guyra Civic Administration Buildings.

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