A strategy aimed at helping the Orange economy recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, is a key feature of this year’s Orange City Council annual budget.
This week’s Council meeting (12 May) voted to put the proposed budget for the 2020/21 financial year on display for community comment.
The draft budget reveals plans to spend $78.9 million on capital projects in the coming year, part of a projected four year capital spend of $226 .6 million from 2020/21 to 2023/24.
The projects are to be funded by a mix of already-approved government grants, council reserves, property sales and loans.
The list of major capital projects planned to begin in the next 12 months, and to be completed in four years, includes:
The Future City CBD upgrade – $10 million (part of a 2 year $30 million project)
Upgrades to the Orange Regional Airport – $4.4 million
The new sporting precinct – $10 million (part of a 2 year $25 million project with NSW Government funding)
Stormwater harvesting expansion – $5million (including $2.5 million NSW Government funding)
Orange Regional Gallery Expansion – $5 million (Council to add $1 million to $4 million NSW Government funding)
Orange Mayor Reg Kidd believes a larger commitment to infrastructure will help the Orange business sector recover.
“Even before the COVID-19 crisis struck, there were signs the whole country was beginning to slow economically,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “Everyone’s still waiting to see how long this crisis will last, but we can be sure that it will come to an end.”
“These are all key pieces of infrastructure, so spending this money now will boost the capacity of our local economy to generate jobs.”
“I’m pleased we are also giving a higher priority this year to building more new footpaths and upgrading older paths. This spending will be good for the local economy as well as improving neighbourhoods. We’re also giving a major boost to parks and playgrounds and allocating funds to improve our villages.”
The proposed budget includes plans to increase spending on footpaths from the current level of $450,000 this year to $900,000 next year. The budget includes plans to spend a further $1.35M on footpaths over the following two years.
The draft budget includes plans to spend $900,000 on new and refurbished Playgrounds over the next 4 years.
The budget proposes a consolidated operating deficit (before capital) of almost $1.3 million ($1,294,992) for 2020/21, but Mayor Reg Kidd believes the size of the deficit is necessary.
“We’re an organisation with an annual turnover of $150 million, so a deficit of $1.3 million must be seen against that background,” Cr Reg Kidd said.
“For the first time in a number of years we’re proposing a deficit budget, instead of a small surplus. That’s largely because of the drop in revenue from having to close a number of council facilities because of the community health crisis.
“We could have dealt with that shortfall by cutting back on spending, but now’s not the time for that if we want our local economy to be ticking over as we potentially come out the other side of this crisis.”
The budget makes provision for a $1.8 million loss in revenue next financial year from agencies affected by COVID-19 restrictions, including:
Child care centres
Civic Theatre and Aquatic Centre closure
Reduction in airport landing fees and parking fines
Revenue from land sales also underpins the budget. Key sites that will be sold include residential sites, the old saleyards site, blocks at the Narrambla industrial estate and the remainder of the old hospital site.
Residential and business rates will rise by 2.6%, the increase capped by the NSW Government’s Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
Average residential rates will increase by $62.22 per year or $1.20 per week. Average business rates will increase by $133.47 or $2.57 per week. Water and sewer rates will increase by 2.5% next year.
“The budget also includes plans for a number of minor projects based on long-standing plans to improve local neighbourhoods and find solutions to local problems,” Cr Kidd said.
The list of projects includes:
Spring Hill Lucknow sewer strategy – $800K
A new elevated boardwalk in the Ploughmans Creek wetlands
A new bridge at the northern end of the Somerset wetlands
An extra leash-free area
New signs & gardens at the entrances to Orange
$20,000 for improvements in each of the communities of Lucknow, Spring Hill and Clifton Grove (Total $60,000)
By visiting the YourSay Orange website (https://yoursay.orange.nsw.gov.au/budget-2020), Orange residents can:
leave a comment about any aspect of the budget
complete a short survey