Sewer a drain on surplus, but pride at council's 'basically balanced budget'

PAINT THE TOWN RED: Council budget was passed on Tuesday and will be in the red.
PAINT THE TOWN RED: Council budget was passed on Tuesday and will be in the red.

ORANGE City Council’s budget will be narrowly in the red during the coming financial year, after it was passed virtually unchanged from its draft form on Tuesday.

The delivery/operational plan 2014-18 shows an operating surplus of $12,028 for the 2014-15 financial year, however the current deficit in the sewer fund has brought the council’s four consolidated funds $193,759 into the red.

The sewer fund will be brought into surplus in 2015-16.

However mayor John Davis said the amount was small in the scheme of a $120 million budget.

“I’m proud that we’ve basically had a balanced budget for the past 12 years,” he said.

Cr Davis said he was pleased councillors with differing priorities had been able to present a united front when the budget was passed.

The muted rises in rates and water, sewer and waste charges have been included, with residential rates increasing by 2.3 per cent, water and sewer by 10 per cent and waste levies by 5.5 per cent.

The combined rises are set to add about $128 a year to an average household’s expenses.

The $54 million capital works program has also remained the same since the draft, including $13.8 million for the Suma Park Dam upgrade, $8 million for Orange airport, $5.5 million for Orange museum, $3.4 million for the Macquarie River pipeline, $427,810 for Orange library’s refurbishment, $3.5 million for the southern feeder road and $2.29 million for the renewal of roads, bridges and footpaths.

Among the few changes was a reduction in the rise of councillors’ salaries to 2.5 per cent instead of 3 per cent.

However, the federal government’s proposed freeze on the financial assistance grant has not been factored in because it has not passed Parliament.

Cr Davis said a loss of income would have to come from somewhere.

“It means we would have to cut services or expenses by that amount,” he said.

During discussions on Tuesday night, deputy mayor Chris Gryllis said while he understood councillors could direct queries to council staff, future budgets should be presented at an extraordinary meeting.

“We should give our budget the due diligence and time it deserves,” he said.

“It’s good if every councillor reads from the same page.”

Councillor Neil Jones asked for future emphasis on footpaths and requested a footpath outside Orange Preschool be revisited as part of council’s quarterly review in September.

“Roads have had a pretty good go and we need to pay much closer attention to footpaths, east Orange in particular,” he said.

Preschool director Joy Watterson welcomed Cr Jones’s representation.

“It’s a safety issue for prams and not only for the three to five-year-olds, but grandparents too.”


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