Council faces huge budget deficit from COVID-19 fallout

THE possibility of no events until January 2021 was just one of the cost saving prospect Rockhampton Regional Council floated during yesteray's council meeting.

Council looked at cost saving options due to coronavirus pandemic's impact on the economy, with the airport income hit could be felt for 10 years.

Decreased staff travel, only essential staff overtime, and holding off maintenance where possible were others.

As the income from Rockhampton Airport has taken an astronomical hit along with less money coming in from developments applications and the landfill, council's 2020-21 budget is looking grim following the fall out of COVID-19.

Serious discussions were presented in the special council meeting that was held at the Pilbeam Theatre on Tuesday, with other officers connected through videolink on the livestream.

All councillors were present. 

Several scenarios were presented by acting CEO Michael Clerc which looked at operational efficiencies and savings.

He said it was easy for him to put them in models but hard when it came to the rubber hitting the road which was harder to do.

The 2020-21 budget was scheduled to be adopted on June 25 but it was requested this be pushed back until later when the future direction of council's financial stance was more clear.

Mayor Margaret Strelow said council wanted to make the best informed decision.

It was also mentioned council could receive government funding.

Council has until July 31 to present a budget.

 

Financial forecasts were presented to 2030.

By the 2021/22 budget it could all be back to normal but there was no crystal ball to give a set date.

Standing orders were suspended from the meeting and various issues were raised by councillors.

Some working ideas to reduce employee costs included essential staff travel training only, no conferences or professional development, videoconferencing encouraged, only essential staff overtime and a wage freeze.

It was specifically noted there would be no reduction of employee wages.

 

Operating expenditure could also by decreasing by reducing facilities openings, hours, adjusting service levels, temporary staff restructure and a focus on compliance maintenance and holding over some maintenance where possible.

The possibilities were discussed to reduce the risk of council being forced to increase rates, or to increase them at a lower amount, to make up for the losses.

It was reiterated at the meeting many times it was only a working model and nothing was finalised.

Council will conduct a series of meetings which will look at rates and revaluation impacts, operation plan and budget 20/21, capital budgets and long-term financial forecasts.



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