Thursday, July 7, 2011

Budget notes

THE council held its budget meeting on June 23. This followed many months of work by council staff while councillors met on only two occasions to discuss the budget prior to its adoption. Some councillors feel this level of involvement is sufficient, but my view is that your elected representatives should take a greater interest in determining the council's discretionary spending. My remarks at the budget meeting follow:

"As a council we are striving to keep our expenses under control in this time of economic uncertainty. We must balance the maintenance of our infrastructure with the demand for new services and facilities, and the capacity of our ratepayers to pay.

"I thank the accountant for his diligent work as always, not least when I asked that the forecast rate increase be reduced to the figure before us tonight.

"After two years on this council, I am of the view that the involvement of councillors in the budget process is too little, too late. I raised this at our workshop last week and do so again at this meeting to place my concerns on record.

"I reiterate that those comments, and those which follow, are not a reflection on the work of the accountant. The fault in the budget process is that councillors leave too much to the staff. No direction is provided until after a draft budget has been prepared.

"We seek public input and public submissions, but as a group of councillors we give no formal consideration to them. Next year, councillors must start this process earlier. I acknowledge that this has been foreshadowed in the documents before us.

"We should review all submissions and provide a prioritised list to the financial department before the draft budget is drawn up. Councillors too should put their budget proposals in writing and bring them to a meeting for formal consideration, along with those received from the public.

"It is also a concern that two reports were not received in time for consideration in the budget process. In recent months this council called for a feasibility study into providing a public toilet at the Millbrook Rise Boat Ramp, as well as an investigation into problems with Collins Cap Rd.

"To my knowledge, neither of these reports has been received. The public toilet is in the budget, but relief for the people of Collins Cap Rd is not.

"It is the duty of the mayor and general manager to ensure the decisions of this council are carried out.

"Similarly, this council undertook to separate the cost of servicing domestic waste systems from our rates demands, but we have not done so. For these reasons I must oppose this budget."

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