Will council be able to deliver toughest budget yet?
SOUTH Burnett Regional Council is preparing to deliver one of its toughest budgets in history.
The combination of drought plaguing the region for years and the impacts of coronavirus have been heavily felt at council, especially in the revenue department.
The original date council had planned to deliver the 2020/2021 budget was Wednesday, July 1.
However, an extension was granted after some of the councillors raised their concerns for this time frame during the May meeting.
Newcomer at council this term, Division 4 councillor Kirstie Schumacher said she wanted to ensure all members of council had enough time to comprehend and understand the budget before submission.
“I would like to give this council as much time as possible,” Cr Schumacher said.
“I am mindful of the $37.9 million worth of borrowings, revaluation of assets, deficits by depreciation and the back log we have.
“I know COVID-19 has changed the operating environment for a number of councils and across our community.
“I would like to see considered time and effort in terms of looking at that budget and ensuring we are making decisions that service levels that are suitable.”
Deputy Mayor Gavin Jones said the budget to be delivered in less than eight weeks would be a first of its kind.
“This one will be a little bit different to (budgets) we have done in the past and I’m sure in the future in regards to COVID-19 and the certain affect it has had on our region,”
“I think we could set it for July 1, knowing we have option in June meeting that if we can’t make a sensible budget we have the option to adjust it back a couple of weeks.
“July 1 should be our target but we have the option to extend it if we feel pushed for time or councillors feel uncomfortable.”
Chief executive Mark Pitt said he believed all of the councillors should have an understanding of what’s in the budget.
Although he said he wanted to remind everyone that council had to adopt a budget by the end of July before ministerial action was taken and an exemption could be imposed.
“COVID-19 has had impact on our business as with many business in the region, particularly in the revenue streams as they will be directly affected,” Mr Pitt said.
“Council has already lost future revenue due to freezing charges.”
After lengthy discussions, Division 5 councillor Kathy Duff suggested they amended the meeting date to July 15, but still had the target to deliver the budget by July 1.
“This will give us, in particularly new councillors, more time and have fortnight to have a look over it,” Cr Duff said.
“There’s a whole heap of things at stake here … and we have a lot of work to do.”
Council accepted the amended date and will now hold the Special Budget meeting on Wednesday, July 15 during the monthly general at the Warren Truss Chambers from 9am.