Central Coast Council will have an operating deficit of $7.7m over the next 12 months as they deliver a $791m investment in essential services and capital works for the region.
Council’s Draft Operational Plan 2019-20 was placed on exhibition for public comment following lengthy debate at its meeting on March 25.
The draft plan forms the second year of Council’s Delivery Program 2018-21.
Essential services will see a spend of $567.8m, while Council will outlay $223.2m on capital works in the priority areas of roads; water and sewerage service infrastructure; protecting and enhancing the local environment; community facilities and open space and recreation infrastructure.
Despite a motion from, Cr Greg Best, to reject the draft and call for a management audit to see why finances are deteriorating at such a rapid rate, councillors voted to put it on public exhibition following spirited discussion.
Cr Best said the plan failed four of the nine benchmark criteria set by the NSW Office of Local Government and also called for a decrease for former Wyong Shire ratepayers to give parity with former Gosford City ratepayers.
He said the former Wyong ratepayers were paying $220 more than former Gosford ratepayers.
Cr Kyle McGregor said the motion was a “stunt” and this should really be about putting the draft plan out on public exhibition.
“There is time to address the inequities,” he said.
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith, said Council’s estimated operating income for the 2019-20 financial year was $560.1m, leaving an estimated budgeted operating deficit of $7.7m before capital grants and contributions.
“We have a 10-year financial strategy and it is expected that we will be back in surplus following the next two financial years,” Smith said.
“It is not uncommon for councils to operate on a deficit.
“It comes down to a choice about the level of service we offer residents.
“Energy and fuel costs have risen and there have been costs relating to integrating systems following the amalgamation of the two councils.”
Smith said the draft plan continued Council’s commitment to prioritising key community needs and aspirations for the Central Coast in line with the Community Strategic Plan, which is Council’s “contract with the community”.
“The Draft Plan details every project and initiative we will deliver over the next year with a strong focus on consolidation of Council’s core operating systems, delivering community infrastructure and meeting sustainability principles,” she said.
Hundreds of projects are planned across the Coast in the $223.2m program with priority spending areas including: $72.7m on roads, transport and drainage; $38.4m on water and sewerage; $21.8m on open space and recreation; $16.3m on facilities and asset management; $9.4m on economic development and project delivery; and, $4.5m on business enterprise.
There will be $4.3m on waste services; $3.1m on natural and environmental assets; $2.7m on waterways and coastal protection; $2.3m on leisure and lifestyle; $1.1m on libraries; and, $148,000 on learning and education.
“We will continue to review our operations to look for innovative ways to deliver services and take advantage of efficiencies to reduce the budgeted operating deficit,” Smith said.
“Council is in a strong financial position with our infrastructure, property, plant and equipment portfolio having a gross replacement cost of $10.2b as at June 30, 2018, and an investment portfolio which is managed to ensure that Council has sufficient funds to deliver services to the community.
“Our community have identified their vision of where they want to see the Coast grow and be in 10 years’ time.
“We want a smart, responsible, green and liveable Central Coast and for all community members to have a sense of belonging.
“This Draft Operational Plan 2019-20 will enable Council to deliver this for our community and continue to pave the way for a prosperous and positive future for our region.”
Source: Agenda item 3.6
Central Coast Council Ordinary Meeting, Mar 25
Interview, Mar 26
Central Coast Mayor, Jane Smith
Reporter: Terry Collins