Competition blamed for drop in grants

AFTER several years of attracting large grants from the federal and state governments for projects including the north Orange bypass and the Macquarie pipeline, Orange City Council’s revenue has taken a hit this year, with a reduction in the size of incoming grants.

But with regular government grants remaining stable, general manager Garry Styles is pleased with the council’s bottom line for the year, revealed in the annual report.

“In recent years we’ve been successful with competitive grants and we haven’t got as many competitive grants this year,” he said.

“The competitive grant environment is pretty tough at the minute but we still try.”

Mr Styles said the best indicators of the council’s performance was the $9.389 million operating surplus before capital, slightly down on last year’s $10.854 million, and the debt service ratio of 5.74 per cent, slightly up on last year’s 4.96 per cent.

But he said all results had to be measured against the level of service the council delivered.

“You’ve got to balance the two,” he said.

“Our level of service is quite high.

“I know people would always like better roads ... but we’ve lifted pretty hard.”

The value of the council’s assets rose to $1 billion this year, up from $906,551 million in 2012, because of reevaluations and extra assets from recent capital works programs including the $7 million aquatic centre, Mr Styles said.

The upkeep of the growing assets is acknowledged as a challenge for the council.

“We’re a growing community, we need to keep expanding our services to cope with increasing population,” he said.

“The magic question is getting the balance between service and sustainability right.”

As well major progress on big ticket items such as the north Orange bypass, waste project, airport expansion, Orange Regional Museum and Macquarie Pipeline, 2013 was also marked by improved operating surpluses in the water and sewer funds, Mr Styles said. 

For next year, Mr Styles said he was keen for the council to bring forward its final asset management plan in light of the lower 2.3 per cent maximum rate increase for next year set by the state government.

clare.colley@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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