City records $7.9 million operating deficit as COVID impacts continue

The City of Greater Geelong has released its results for the 2020-21 financial year, recording an operating deficit of $7.9 million.

The result reflects the difficult environment created by COVID, with the Council continuing to prioritise financial support to local businesses and the community ahead of achieving a surplus.

A combination of permit and fee waivers and reduced user fees, in addition to the forced closures of leisure centres and outdoor pools, led to a net COVID-19 related impact of $14.8m in 2020-21.

This followed a $10.5 million impact on the 2019-20 operating result.

The $7.9 million deficit is ahead of the $24.6 million deficit budgeted in June 2020, largely thanks to the early receipt of $11.8 million in Commonwealth Grants Commission funding.

A total of $121 million was invested in capital works projects during the financial year, delivering new community facilities and infrastructure while generating local jobs and employment.

It is the third consecutive year the City’s capital program has exceeded $120 million, with a huge $708 million in further works budgeted by the Council over the next four years to support Greater Geelong’s population growth.

Highlights of the capital program for 2020-21 included:

  • $29.6 million on road replacement and construction;
  • $9.1 million toward the major West Oval redevelopment and $3.5 million toward the Herne Hill Reserve redevelopment;
  • $4.5 million towards the roll-out of sustainable LED lighting in our streetlights; and
  • $4.3 million for footpaths and bike paths.

A further $32.5 million was invested in the construction of the new civic precinct at 137 Mercer Street, ‘Wurriki Nyal‘, which is due for completion in 2022.

The comprehensive result for the financial year was a surplus of $141.6 million, which was $56.8 million ahead of budget.

However, CEO Martin Cutter cautioned this should not be considered a windfall for the Council.

“Of that figure, $99 million is attributable to non-monetary assets gifted by developers, such as new drainage, roads and footpaths,” Mr Cutter said.

“These assets are now council’s responsibility to maintain, which places additional pressure on the yearly budget.

“A further $34 million was from developer cash contributions, which will be required to be invested back into new community facilities and infrastructure in the near future.”

The City of Greater Geelong is now responsible for an asset base totalling $3.1 billion in value.

The Council is planning to progressively increase its annual spend on maintaining these assets over the next 10 years through its proposed Long-termFinancial Plan.

Continuing COVID impacts mean the Council has budgeted for another deficit in the current financial year, but plans to return to a small surplus by 2022-23.

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