South Burnett Regional Council will face a deficit of $4.65 million this year and could face an even worse figure in the future unless it undertakes urgent budget repairs, Councillors were told on Wednesday

April 21, 2021

South Burnett Regional Council will face a deficit of $4.65 million this year and could face an even higher deficit next year unless it undertakes urgent budget repairs.

This sobering news was delivered at the Council’s Corporate standing committee meeting on Wednesday.

Mayor Brett Otto said continued deficits could rapidly push the South Burnett into the same position as the neighbouring North Burnett and Gympie regional councils, and action needed to be taken to return the Budget to surplus by 2023-24.

The Mayor said the North Burnett was holding a series of “Between A Rock And A Hard Place” community consultation meetings this month to appraise their region the NBRC needed to reconsider road maintenance, pools, waste facilities, libraries, showgrounds and mowing because it did not have enough income to support current outlays.

Gympie, too, was facing “very tough” decisions after incoming Councillors discovered soon after last year’s election that most of Council’s reserves had been spent and it had to borrow money to pay wages.

Mayor Otto said he did not want to leave the South Burnett with a similar legacy – especially considering he had promised better financial management as part of his election campaign.

The discussion about the region’s finances came as Council considered calling tenders for an external consultant to advise it on ways to return Council’s budget to good order.

Mayor Otto said the advantage of hiring an external group was that they could bring “fresh eyes” to the problem and may be able to suggest solutions Councillors and staff hadn’t looked at.

One issue he was keen to see examined was Council assets because the amount Council had to set aside in depreciation for their eventual replacement was very large.

Cr Kathy Duff reminded the meeting that when the South Burnett Regional Council was formed in 2008, it had inherited a combined debt of more than $6 million and was put under watch by Queensland Treasury because it was regarded as financially unsound.

She said if Council continued on its current path she could see the same happening again, and was keen to avoid this.

Cr Gavin Jones said he was not opposed to the idea of bringing external eyes to the problem, but said he would object strenuously to any reduction in the Council’s outlays on roads.

He believed that after several years of hard work on the region’s road network, now was not the time to back off.

Cr Roz Frohloff said both Councillors and ratepayers needed to realise there were likely to be some tough decisions that will need to be made.

“Ratepayers want the best of everything but do not want to pay for it,” Cr Frohloff said.

“So if the report comes back and tells us we have to rationalise, will we have the balls to do it?”

CEO Mark Pitt said he thought the best procedure would be to spend the next 10 weeks scoping the problem and running it by Treasury officials.

Council would then call a tender for a consultant and would specify a final report date of June 30, 2022.

Councillors voted 4 to 2 to tender for an external consultant, with Crs Jones and Henschen opposed and Cr Potter absent.


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8 Responses to "‘Budget Repair’ Consultant Called In"

  1. Andrew  April 22, 2021

    Hands up who thought that voting in a new mayor and councillors would decrease rates. Well done.

    All that happened is that everything has been put behind by a couple of years as the newbies learn what they actually can and, more importantly, cannot do. Especially Div 6 – throwing mud in the campaign and now that team disintegrating publicly is chewing up so much valuable resources ie. time on the ground and actually doing councillor work.

    If you believe the councillors, they are very miserly with their spending. So it is painfully obvious we have a revenue problem.

    Do existing ratepayers need to pay more or do we need more ratepayers? Simple, more ratepayers please. We have a once-in-20-year demand for housing. Is our council opening up land and encouraging developers and builders to flock to the area? I think I know the answer…

    Reply
  2. Bouncer  April 22, 2021

    On April 7 we hear that council has approved the spending of $800,000 to upgrade Youngman Street. Now we here about a deficit of $4.65 million. Perhaps all non-essential projects should be put on hold until council gets its house in order.

    The suggestion from Andrew (above) also seems reasonable.

    Reply
  3. Be The Difference  April 22, 2021

    You are on to something there Andrew, but while we would hope and like to think more ratepayers equals cheaper rates, I have a feeling that this will not be the case. PLEASE prove me wrong.

    Reply
  4. Suzie Beirne  April 22, 2021

    What does council do to support developers in Nanango? Council fees and requirements are prohibitive and unrealistic. Support is lacking.

    Infrastructure costs are not supported in any way. It seems the attitude is “you’re on your own” despite the fact that just short of 90 new ratepayers will be contributing to the coffers! Narrow-minded and parochial.

    Reply
  5. Concerned Ratepayer  April 22, 2021

    Well said Andrew, couldn’t agree with you more. Ratepayers should not be held accountable for Councillor’s blatant misuse of funding while such a high deficit is in place. Fix what you HAVE to fix, encourage developers and new enterprise to the area, reduce Councillor’s pay rate. Their position used to be one of pride and voluntary.

    Reply
  6. Rod Long  April 22, 2021

    I agree with Andrew – we definitely need more people. Population growth over the past 5 years has ground to a halt and we’re seeing the consequences of this now. Why? Because prices inevitably rise, which means we all need to pay more because we don’t have more residents to share the burden with.

    Seriously, we need to attract new residents to this region and we need to do it quickly.

    The only alternative is to steadily lose services like libraries, swimming pools and many other things we take for granted. The real issue isn’t Council waste or mismanagement – it’s the unsustainable inheritance of assets that came with this Council in 2008 coupled with zero population growth that’s the root cause of most of the problems.

    Reply
  7. Lizzy  April 23, 2021

    And another root cause to the problem, in my opinion, is the idea of some councillors that listing projects and large amounts of money in the budget figures will actually pay for them.

    They know perfectly well that the funds are not there, and such expensive and mostly unnecessary beautification projects just add to the deficit.

    Cr Roz Frohloff, you say ratepayers want the best but don’t want to pay more rates for it. Discussions over the last few months would show that ratepayers pretty much want the opposite since many are against Cr Jones’ beautification projects.

    So, please, talk to your colleague(s) and persuade them to listen to the ratepayers.

    Reply
  8. Lifetime Resident  April 23, 2021

    I am concerned as a ratepayer greatly reading this news. I hate consultation processes as often it is wasted money, no matter what industry you are in BUT I think it is ultimately the best and most reliable option in this predicament. Fresh eyes over all facts and figures for all to view. Options then given of how to escape financial disaster for the future. The result maybe the big picture of a way out of inheritance of old history and current greed by SBRC. Ratepayers want a bang for their buck now and in the future but money not wasted on unnecessary projects. Cr Frohloff, I can’t believe how out of touch you really are with your voters and community. I would be so embarrassed making a statement like that on record!

    Reply

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