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Salt into the wounds

Friday, 1st March, 2013

By Kurtis J Eichler

More cuts could be made to City Council's budget to pay for a $70,000 by-election caused by the resignation of councillor John Groenendijk.

Council faces a potential fiscal crisis which could leave them $12.5 million in deficit at the end of this financial year.

It's also faced with the grim prospect of having to hand over $6.8 million to mining company Perilya in overpaid rates.

Outgoing general manager, Frank Zaknich, said at council's monthly meeting on Wednesday night that there needed to be discipline around aintaining the budget.

Council has already taken the axe to some planned projects and donations.

"These sorts of expenditures that are unexpected, to a certain extent, will need to be offset by reductions in other expenditure," Mr Zaknich said.

"Because we've got to spend this on the by-election, we need to offset this on some other project that won't happen this year.

"Again that's the nature in which the budget will be operating."

Clr Dave Gallagher won a seat in the 2011 by-election. He said the only way of avoiding the cost of another was if only one candidate stood. and the chances of that happening were slim.

"I do believe there will be a couple of people standing.

"We'll just have to take each day as it comes and see what we have to do".

Mr Zaknich said it was possible Council could return to surplus in the future.

He said if that was to happen though, a range of "strategic decisions" around services and what council ran needed to be made first.

"It's not just a matter of reducing costs or employees or the like, and then continue with the expectation from the community that you'll provide everything you used to provide.

"There needs to be a strategic change first and then you line up your staffing and your resources accordingly".

Councillors also supported a motion by Clr Marion Browne to wait until after the by-election to fill Clr Groenendijk's seats on various committees.

"I think it's premature," she said.

Mr Groenendijk yesterday said the cost of the by-election was something he regretted.

"I resigned for medical reasons and I said that in my letter of resignation," he said.

He said he was aware of the cost and had apologised to Mayor Wincen Cuy.

"I couldn't do much about it".

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