A resilient Budget designed to counter the triple body blows of drought, bushfires and COVID-19 will go on display when Council puts its 2020/21 Budget and Operational Plan on public exhibition from tomorrow Friday 19 June.
Significant pressures on Council’s Budget have been compounded during the past 12 months by the combined effects of these unprecedented external factors, which have cut Council income and brought the additional cost of measures to deal with each crisis.
“Responsible financial management by Council, including an operating surplus last year, has ensured the financial impact has not been as severe as it might otherwise have been,” Council’s Chief Executive Officer, Susan Law, said.
“However, these crisis have still had a substantial impact on the strength of our Budget and push back the timeframe for our journey to financial sustainability.
“That will require us to be prudent and constrained for a few more years, creating pressures for increases to fees and charges in 2020/21 and a need to scale down our list of projects going into the new financial year.”
That included a $6 million impact on Council’s Water Reserve because of reduced consumption during water restrictions and the added cost of measures to enhance water security in response to the drought.
An extraordinary meeting of Council today resolved to exhibit the 2020/21 Budget and Operation Plan from Friday 19 June to 16 July, accompanied by several supporting documents:
- Draft Revenue Policy
- Fees and Chargers 2020-2021
- Resourcing Strategy
Ms Law said the massive financial impacts of recent events had not prevented Council from delivering numerous key projects in recent months, such as Kempsey Road, the Trevenna Road roundabout, the Armidale Regional Airport Business Park and the upgrade of Shand Drive to service existing operators at the airport.
“Careful financial management and a commitment to strengthening our community will also ensure they will not impede progress on valuable projects during the next financial year,” she said.
“Our Operational Plan for 2020/21 includes a number of key projects, such as the new Curtis Park Playground, the new Guyra Early Childhood Learning Centre, the Guyra Main Street refurbishment, the Business Hub at the former Armidale library building, the airport apron upgrade, ongoing works
at the Armidale Regional Airport Business Park and the start of modernisation of the Puddledock Dam to Armidale Water Treatment Plant pipeline.
“Our capital works program will have to prioritise projects with funding input by State and Federal government and honouring our commitments to those projects,” she said.
Ms Law said Council is also committed to playing a leading role in equipping the community to recover from the recent challenges and rise to a new position of strength.
The 2020/21 Budget includes funds allocated for economic stimulus initiatives and capital works project that will bolster the local economy, such as the airport business park and Business Hub.
“That budget allocation for stimulus is important to help get business and the community back on their feet but it will mean we’ll have to do more with less for other services,” she said.
“Council’s ongoing focus on finding efficiencies in our operations will certainly help ease the financial strain we are going to experience.
“It’s been a key factor in our ability to maintain our spending at a similar level to 2019/20, so no services have been cut.”
The harmonisation of fees and charges – as remaining steps in the amalgamation of the Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire councils – will also bring adjustments to fees and changes.
“This required process for the amalgamation, to ensure fees are charged consistently throughout the Armidale region, will bring increases for some customers and reductions for others,” she said.
In line with that consistency, Guyra residential and business ratepayers will come on board with Armidale ratepayers in contributing towards the new regional landfill, which is on track to be operational in September and will receive waste from throughout the region.