Lismore Council is facing a budget shortfall of almost $2 million and a scramble to find a new GM of the calibre of Gary Murphy, who resigned this week.
Mr Murphy will take on the same role at the larger Central Coast Council.
Meanwhile, the council has admitted that its underperforming quarry, falling recycling incomes and a budgeting error of around half a million dollars has left it some $1.6 million worse off than forecast.
But Mayor Isaac Smith said that although the shortfall meant a rejig of priorities to ensure road and asset renewals go according to plan, he was overall ‘happy with the budget process’.
‘Unfortunately one thing is at the expense of another and this does mean some cuts to other services,’ he told Echonetdaily.
Cr Smith said there was ‘never a good time to change leaders, especially as Gary’s done a great job,’ but that it was ‘not surprising that he’s been head-hunted by someone else’.
Asked if he thought that Mr Murphy’s replacement would be seeking a higher salary, he added ‘I don’t know what the current state of the market is – he’s been with us for seven years’.
‘Apart from the $40-$50k recruitment costs, I couldn’t put a figure on it at the moment,’ he said.
Mayor Smith also commended the GM on his ‘valuable contribution to the organisation and the community’.
‘Under Gary’s management, Council has become a nationally recognised leader in waste management and recycling; he has implemented an innovative floating solar farm; set bold goals around self-generating 100 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources by 2023; and delivered the Quad and art gallery; health precinct; and the Lismore Prospectus. His leadership and support during the 2017 flood helped the community and staff maintain resilience during a particularly difficult time.
‘I would like to take the opportunity to personally thank him for his years of great service to both the organisation and the city of Lismore.’
Gary said he has loved his time in Lismore both personally and professionally, but was looking forward to a new challenge.
‘I have been General Manager for seven years and my plan was always to do a maximum of 10 years. Timeframes and opportunities do not always coincide and I have always seized opportunities as they arise,’ he said.