Council budget tens of millions of dollars in deficit as it scrambles to find savings

Bega Valley Shire Council has revealed it is millions of dollars in deficit after a delay in its revaluation of land and building assets saw last year's audited financial statements finally released.

General manager Leanne Barnes said while net worth increased by $37million, its audited financial statements show a net consolidated deficit of $8.92million and a net operating deficit of $14.092million over the 2018-19 financial year.

Council has for several years indicated that rationalisation of some asset types, and the divestment of some land and buildings may be necessary moving forward.

Bega Valley Shire Council general manager Leanne Barnes

Ms Barnes said increased road maintenance and waste costs were a "number of areas" leading to the budget deficit, which was revealed at last week's council meeting after it met its February 28 extension granted by the Office of Local Government

"There is no doubt that balancing the community's needs and desires with the available revenue proved difficult, especially in light of the Tathra and Yankees Gap fire emergencies and subsequent ongoing recovery period," she said.

We are currently working through our 2020 budget and the proposed 2021 budget to identify savings, especially in light of the currently unfunded impact of the compounding fire/flood/COVID-19 disasters, with reports on a refocus of the operational plan being prepared for the consideration of council in the near future."

With bushfires, floods and a coronavirus epidemic yet to be costed for, Ms Barnes hinted the offloading of council assets may be a future possibility.

"Our focus is always on doing the best we can to support our community and sometimes this means undertaking tasks and meeting needs that weren't foreseen - that was certainly the case during 2018-19 and as we know too well has become an ongoing pattern for us this year as well," she said.

"Obviously we are always striving to operate within our means and we are consequently implementing a financial improvement program that includes changes to the quarterly reporting process and a renewed focus on maintaining costs to budget," she said.

"While the overall 2018-19 result was disappointing, the statements did also include the positive news that council's net worth increased by $37 million, cash holdings also increased, and we continue to maintain outstanding debts well below the Code of Accounting benchmark.

"With our relatively small ratepayer base meaning increasing revenue significantly is simply not possible, council has for several years indicated that rationalisation of some asset types, and the divestment of some land and buildings may be necessary moving forward."

READ MORE: