Council budget called into question: 'it could be more open', says Gryllis

THE OTHER ONE: Chris Gryllis wants to know about other expenses.

THE OTHER ONE: Chris Gryllis wants to know about other expenses.

MORE transparency is needed in Orange City Council’s draft budget, according to one of Orange’s councillors.

Deputy mayor Chris Gryllis said there were several categories in the delivery/operational plan 2014/18 listed as other, leaving councillors and the community unsure of what would be funded. 

These categories fall under expenses from continuing operations ($7,675,878), capital renewals ($1,165,500), capital upgrades ($40,000) and capital replacements ($38,000).

“I’m not suggesting anything naughty is going on, but I believe the presentation of the budget could be a bit more open,” he said.

“The community must be really aware of what’s going on.”

Councillor Reg Kidd agreed, saying he had put questions to staff.

However, councillor Russell Turner said some items could still be commercial in confidence.

“We don’t want to be telling people we’re negotiating with what our upper limit is,” he said.

Councillor Kevin Duffy said there seemed to be some councillor confusion surrounding the budget.

“I think one of the issues was a lot of councillors didn’t understand [on April 1] they were moving to place the budget on public exhibition - if they knew, they may have held it over,” he said.

“It’s called integrated planning and reporting - it’s confusing for ratepayers and councillors because it seems like it has to do with planning laws.”

However, councillor Glenn Taylor disagreed, saying the process had been “pretty exhaustive”.

“We worked harder on this than in the history of the council,” he said.

Cr Taylor believed councillors with concerns about the budget layout should send a question to council staff.

“We can ask questions at any time, we’ve been to endless briefings,” he said.

Councillor Jeff Whitton agreed, saying councillors were given a “hands-on understanding” of the budget’s contents and concerned residents should approach a councillor.

However, Cr Taylor urged the public to comment on the budget.

“People need to tell us if they are not happy about this or that,” he said.

A report to councillors explained the $7.7 million in continuing operations as including insurance, utilities, library administration, councillor fees and expenses, lease payments, donations and funding the Conduct Review Committee.

A council spokesman said descriptions for capital expenditure were tight in order to comply with Australian accounting standards and a project was described as other when it fell outside the categories.

Projects in the other capital categories will include amenities and irrigation at Sir Jack Brabham Park, a skate park at Anzac Park, a youth precinct playground at Moulder Park, stage two of the pathway at Ploughmans Valley Wetlands, new cricket nets at Cutcliffe Oval, stormwater filtration ponds at Roselawn Drive and a vent upgrade at the sewage treatment plant.

“But in the budget papers that were adopted and put on public display by council, each of the items that are added together under the other categories are clearly identified in a separate section of the budget papers by name as a separate line item, so that the community can be clear about where money is being spent,” the spokesman said.

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