Byron Shire Council’s new general manager (GM) Ken Gainger has walked into the job to face a $12.722 million budget deficit.
Expenditure, the identification of new recurrent revenue sources and a rationalisation of the council’s property portfolio are now under review after the announcement was made public at last Thursday’s meeting.
Cr Alan Hunter, who provided a summary of Council’s financial position, said of the revised budget estimates for 2012/2013, ‘We have a month to turn it around, and we have to make some significant changes.’
However, GM Gainger told Echonetdaily it was ‘important to note that the estimated operating expenditure reported, comprising $74.739 million, includes provision for an annual estimated (paper based) depreciation expense of $16.496 million’.
He says that the depreciation expense is a cost that ‘represents the annual consumption of the useful life of the Council assets,’ but emphasised it is not a ‘cash related expense’.
‘While all NSW councils are required to report an operating result including depreciation charges,’ he said, ‘the result does not equate to a cash loss. Byron Shire Council’s estimated operating result is not dissimilar to other surrounding councils,’ Mr Gainger said.
‘Excluding depreciation, Council estimates it will generate a surplus of $3.774 million; however, this is insufficient to fully fund capital works and Council’s significant loan principal repayments.’
Cr Alan Hunter told Echonetdaily, ‘Council is likely to continue to be under significant pressure given the current circumstances from recent heavy rain and weather events and the forecast of still more to come. Council’s estimated legal service reserve of $609,000 would be very helpful in improving conditions for residents at Coopers Shoot or Wilsons Creek.’
Mr Gainger echoed the financial manager’s view, telling Council that this was ‘unsatisfactory’. He says staff are working on financial strategies to progressively improve Council’s financial position, which will be discussed later in March.