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‘Considered and strategic’ Council budget turns focus to asset renewal

Published: 29th June 2021

Longreach Regional Council has announced it will focus heavily on asset renewal as part of its 2021/2022 Budget, handed down today.

Major projects include repairs to the Isisford Weir, valued at $1.2 Million, for which Council successfully negotiated state government support. In addition, Isisford will benefit from a major water mains replacement program and improvements to its Water Treatment Plant. Other major assets receiving attention in the budget are the Longreach Saleyards, the Longreach Aquatic Centre, and the Ilfracombe Water Treatment Plant. 

Following a rates freeze in the previous budget, this year’s budget sees net rates increase by a modest 2.5%, with close to zero increase in utilities. Overall this equates to a total increase in rates fees and charges of just 0.73%. Council advises its annual rating review has made minor adjustments that will achieve a continued increase in fairness and equity across rating categories.

Council’s cash position will remain strong with $22 Million projected to be in the bank at the end of the 2021/22 financial year. It credits this performance to around $500,000 in operational savings it has achieved in the previous 2 years. These savings have been achieved across a wide range of operations and include a reduction in vehicles, savings on administration costs such as software, computer equipment and savings in telecommunications and electricity costs.  The Council expects its asset renewal program to translate into further operational savings in future budgets.

The budget will restrict the growth of Council’s operational deficit to $5.5 Million, with a net positive result, after Capital grants, of $2.6 Million. Ongoing quarterly reviews are expected to uncover yet more operational savings through the coming year. Council will also deliver a capital program worth $15.4 Million in the 2021/22 financial year that includes over $8.1 Million in state and federal funding. 

Mayor Tony Rayner said the budget was prepared with one aim in mind.

“We started work on this budget in December last year with the aim of balancing our sensitive financial position against the need to maintain a basic standard of community services” he said. “Asset management is a big part of ensuring our services are maintainable in the long term. Council manages over $300 Million in community assets. Maintaining and renewing those assets requires our constant attention.

“It’s a very delicate balance, but one that we have to uphold in a fiscally responsible manner.” 

He said the state government’s support of the Isisford Weir repairs meant Council could commit more to other projects in the budget.

“We’re very grateful for the support of state and federal governments, and we’re proud of our relationships with levels of government and their departments” he said. “We work well with our state and federal colleagues, we had the Prime Minister here in January and of course the Premier brought Cabinet to Longreach in April. That’s where we made the case for state government to support the repairs to the Isisford Weir.

“If it weren’t for that vital support, we would have had to defer some of our community projects to cover the cost of repairs.”

Through its operational budget, Council will spend $5.6M maintaining and improving town streets, storm-water drainage and rural roads; $3.5M providing water and sewerage services; $640K delivering Community Services such as Libraries, Events, and Sponsorship; $3.8M maintaining Public Facilities like Cemeteries, Showgrounds, Parks and Gardens, Pools, Sporting Facilities, and Town Halls; $860K supporting the regional Tourism industry; and $1.02M managing pests, weeds, rural lands, stock routes, and reserves.

Other projects in the Capital program include $1.9M of major works on Rural Roads and Town Streets including construction of a pedestrian footpath to the Longreach Airport, expansion of the Childcare centre to provide more capacity for babies and toddlers, and upgrades to the SES building in Longreach.
Cr Rayner said the Council was also pursuing a strong strategic agenda in the coming year.

“There are some important strategic outcomes that we’ll be working on this year” he said. “Chief among these will be the development of a revised corporate plan, to more accurately reflect the full range of important work undertaken by Council. The corporate plan sets the strategic agenda for everything Council does, so it’s important that it remain relevant to the current policy context and the aspirations of our community.

“We’ll also commence the development of a new economic development strategy to guide our work supporting the region’s economy. We’ll further our investigation into raising the weirs on the Thomson River, to improve our water security, while the advancement of our visionary Thomson River Master Plan will continue to drive liveability outcomes for the good of our region.”

Mayor Rayner said the budget takes a measured approach to the needs of the region.

“I believe this budget strikes the delicate balance that we always look for. It is considered, strategic, and fiscally responsible.”

The full Longreach Regional Council Budget 2020-2021, including the Mayor’s Budget Statement, will be available to download from Council’s website next week.

 

Key Figures – Longreach Regional Council Budget 2021-2022: 

Operating Position  
Operating Revenue $39.6 Million
   Money from rates, levies & charges    $10.7 Million
   Financial Assistance Grants – Operating    $7.8 Million
   Other Grants  – Operating    $10.6 Million
Operating Expenses $45.2 Million
   Employee Benefits    $16.2 Million 
   Materials & Services    $20.3 Million
   Depreciation & Amortisation    $7.7 Million
Operational Deficit ($5.5 Million)
Capital Expenditure $15.5 Million
Capital Grants    $8.1 Million
Net Result $2.6 Million

 

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