5 February, 2023
Strategy to inform TRC budget process
A BUDGET strategy has been developed to assist Tableland Regional Councillors as they begin de-liberations for the 2023-24 financial year in a bid to keep rates as low as possible while coping with rising costs.
Council is under pressure to keep rate rises to a minimum given new land valuations will emerge in March which are likely to reflect a rise in the value of land in parts of the local government area.
The budget strategy includes a number of considerations such as the current cost of living, operating requirements of council, asset requirements, decreasing grant funding, and increasing expenses such as electricity and construction materials.
Officers are already flagging that the new budget will have a deficit operating position if general rate increases “are limited”, taking into account that grant funds are likely to be reduced and costs will continue to climb.
“Grant funds to support operational activities are expected to continually decrease over the coming years placing additional pressure on revenue recovery activities such as rates, utilities, fees and charges,” a report to council stated.
“It is understood that due to largely to inflation (CPI to the September 2022 quarter being 7.3 per cent), council costs to deliver the same services / service levels are expected to increase by a similar percentage.”
But at last week's meeting, Cr Dave Bilney took exception to officers assumptions, saying that until the process had been worked through, there was no firm position that the operating budget would be at a deficit.
Currently, the organisation is undertaking a service review that will feed into the operational budget and future budget planning.
The Capital Works budget is also expected to be bigger than previous years due to the need to deliver essential water and sewerage infrastructure. As part of the budget deliberation process, preliminary capital workshops have already been conducted, with a focus on essential infrastructure.
“Capital project wish lists will be deferred to allow focus on strategic initiatives and major projects,” the report stated.
“Prioritised capital deliverables will be smoothed over the next four years instead of three
years, to ensure deliverability. An amount in the order of $15 million will be preserved in the capi-tal budget each year for asset renewal.”
But financial officers have already flagged the council may need to borrow to deliver what is re-quired.
“Depending on the adopted capital budget additional loans are likely required,” the report stated.
Currently, the council has loans of $5.1 million which equates to approximately $393 per rateable property.
Final capital and operational budget development workshops will take place in the last week of March, with the 2023/24 Budget and Operational Plan expected to be adopted by 30 June.