June 17, 2017
Assets such as local halls or libraries could be closed or sold by the South Burnett Regional Council in a bid to cut its ongoing expenses, Mayor Keith Campbell said on Friday afternoon.
Mayor Campbell said he and his fellow councillors would be looking at these avenues to save money on top of job cuts announced on Thursday.
A statement released by the Council on Thursday confirmed a number of jobs would disappear as part of the cost-cutting exercise.
Mayor Campbell confirmed on Friday that originally a larger number of job losses had been under consideration.
However, CEO Gary Wall now expected the reductions would eliminate 10 to 13 positions.
It was hoped these cuts could be achieved by voluntary redundancies, or through natural attrition.
But Mayor Campbell said more savings were being sought.
Assets that could be considered for sale include the Coolabunia Saleyards and a number of homes and units owned by Council.
Other Council-owned assets could also be under consideration, as well as community grants and rates remissions.
“There is a whole suite of (non-core) Council activities that have an impact on Council costs,” Mayor Campbell said.
He said he was “leading the search” to cut Council expenses.
“We have to look at the long-term financial sustainability of the South Burnett Regional Council,” he said.
“Our costs of operation are higher than they should be.”
Mayor Campbell said there was a need to rationalise assets because there were a lot of expensive future projects the Council would have to undertake waiting in the wings.
These included the replacement of the Murgon wastewater plant, and the connection of Nanango to the Kingaroy water supply system.
There was also streetscaping and the modernisation of towns.
“I am working with my fellow councillors to look to manage and assure the sustainability of the Council into the future,” he said.
Mayor Campbell said it was nine years since amalgamation, and over that time there had been a lot of “small attempts to make savings here and there”.
But he was not interested in that, and believed savings had to be made across the whole of the Council.
“Council’s operations have to be cost-effective relative to our capacity to raise income,” he said.
He said there was “no appetite” to increase rates.
“An unexpected black hole (in the Budget) occurred since the adoption of the 2016-17 Budget,” he said.
The causes of this black hole were unexpected depreciation costs (Council must set aside funds to cover the replacement of assets, including Council roads), the increasing cost of goods and services, and fewer development applications.
Mayor Campbell said councillors were trying to achieve a Budget where the rate increase would be in line with the CPI.
Council’s outdoor services would not be impacted by the cuts.
“We need to look at the shape and size of Council relative to our asset ownership and what our rate base can afford,” he said.
“This is a conversation that needs to be started.”
The Council Budget will be handed down on Monday, June 26.