The Byron Shire Council (BSC) has announced massive cuts to community donations and an increase in childcare costs to balance its 2012–13 budget, on top of a 3.6 per cent rate hike.
In what BSC’s general manager Graeme Faulkner described as ‘a belt-tightening budget’, average residential ratepayers will be slugged an additional $40 in the coming financial year.
BSC has also taken $48,000 from its community donations allocation, leaving it with just $30,800 to disburse this year. And much of this is already committed to regular donations, previously resolved upon by Council to groups including the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter and Brunswick Valley Rescue, a Council spokesperson confirmed.
In addition, $7,000 out of this year’s donations budget is earmarked for community groups that apply for a Council ‘donation’ relating to approval costs for community events, such as road closures.
‘Council is currently asking community groups seeking a donation related to an event they will hold next financial year to write to Council asking for support. Council will then assess each application on its merits,’ the spokesperson told Echonetdaily.
The spokesperson added that ‘the provision of childcare services was made cost neutral this financial year’ and ‘the new fees are what Council believes will keep the service cost neutral next financial year’.
‘This means long daycare will increase by $3 per day for children under three, and $4 for children between three and five. However, it is important to note that this does not include any government rebate a parent receives for the cost of child care.’
BSC’s general manager Graeme Faulkner said this would be the third consecutive year that the council’s general rates were raised as per the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal rate pegging, which was this year set at 3.6 per cent.
But he implied that the Council would have opted for a higher rate had it not been capped at this level.
‘Whilst good news for community, it has been a challenge to arrive at a balanced budget that does not slip into deficit,’ he said.
Mr Faulkner said 2012–13 would see the General Fund having a forecasted $40,000 budget surplus, which would result in an estimated General Fund Accumulated Working Fund Surplus of $542,900 for the 2012–2013 financial year.
Mr Faulkner said BSC would this year spend more than $3.82 million on local roads and drainage; $3.02 million on parks, reserves and sporting fields; $2.35 million on property maintenance including community buildings and pools; $1.21 million on land and environment services; $4.58 million on recycling and waste management; $5.191 million on sewer services; and $9.79 million on water supplies in direct maintenance expenditures.
Interestingly, BSC made no direct mention in its budget announcement of the fate of its beleaguered new Sports and Cultural Complex, which remains in limbo as tenders for its management have yet to be let.
But the Council spokesperson told Echonetdaily BSC expects the net cost of the sports complex to be $519,300 next financial year.
‘In terms of outsourcing management of the complex’s multipurpose facility, Council is currently seeking information from potential parties. Council is working with these groups to make sure the right appointment is made to manage this important community facility. Council will be holding meetings later this week as it takes the next steps towards making an appointment,’ the spokesperson said.