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No avoiding the tough times: Council

Wednesday, 30th April, 2014

By Erica Visser

City Council will steer clear of taking out new loans in the coming financial year to combat millions of dollars’ worth of debt.

Even without taking out any more loans, Council expects to be more than $5.65m in debt.

This includes $1 million borrowed for the Broken Hill Film Studios, $1.5 million for roads, $2.5 million for the Regional Aquatic Centre and $1 million on IT upgrades. 

For Council, 2014-2015 is expected to be a year of tough decisions, with service cuts and redundancies mooted.

The budgeted costs estimated for the coming year include over $17.4 million on employees, $7.25m on materials and contracts, around $6.5m on depreciation and $5m on “other expenses.”

Independent Councillor Jim Richards said that it was a “tricky time” for Council.

Around $280,000 in mine rates will be transferred to the residential sector in a bid to gradually reduce a reliance on the mines.

This is on top of a pegged rate increase of 2.3 per cent which would be applied to all ratepayers.

“People in the community are going to think that’s a little illogical, reducing services while increasing rates,” Clr Richards said.

“It’s just a real shame (that) for the past 20 years this problem was bubbling away and only now it’s being rectified.

“I’m making decisions to correct issues that started before I was born.”

The 26-year-old said that deciding what services needed to stay would be the “biggest challenge” for the city this year.

“It does put more pressure on people in the town. I think it’s a tricky time for everyone,” Clr Richards said.

“But at the same time, when the Department of Local Government looks at City Council and they see our financial situation they need to see us taking big moves to stop us from going broke.”

In March, Councillor Darriea Turley told the BDT that she was worried that many residents could not withstand another rate shift.

“We have a high percentage of people on some form of benefits and I don’t know if the community could handle that,” she said, after Mayor Cuy’s support of the move.

“That’s a good argument that the mayor has put forward but I think we need to push ourselves a little further ... to access funding opportunities.”

Labor representatives make up half of all councillors. 

Council will vote on the whether to accept the budget at a monthly public meeting to be held at 6.30 tonight.

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