Mayor Brad Carter
Mayor Brad Carter

Floods hit council's budget hard

ROCKHAMPTON Regional Council’s revised budget shows it has taken big hits from the weather.

As well as incurring damage estimated at $104 million and a loss of revenue from the airport of almost $1 million, the unusually wet spring and summer resulted in a $3.5 million fall in water consumption.

Financial managers have told councillors that the authority’s budgeted deficit for the 2010/11 financial year has increased $2.5 million to $11.1 million.

The council had budgeted for a net operating deficit of $8.6 million in this financial year.

Debt now stands at a shade under $200 million, but slightly lower than anticipated.

But Mayor Brad Carter is putting a brave face on the council’s financial situation.

“It’s probably a better result than we might have had after a disastrous December and January and I’m very impressed with the financial discipline and skills that exist in the organisation to give us such an accurate account of our situation.

“Revenue has been cut, but I think there will be a marginal impact on our next budget.”

Cr Carter said his colleagues had voted to keep the July rates increase in the range of 3% to 5% and now faced a tough series of decisions in order to meet the target.

But he believed it was achievable and it was still possible to eradicate the annual deficit by 2014.

On the question of debt he said it represented $1319 for every man, woman and child in the region.

“This is actually a sign that we have a strong financially managed council.

"Gladstone’s debt per capita is $1965, Townsville’s is $1981 and Ipswich’s is $1729.”

He acknowledged there were a number of regional councils in Queensland with less debt, but insisted the issue was being professionally managed.

While the council remains hopeful that it will recoup its entire flood damage bill from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, doubts remain that it will be compensated for the physical damage to the runway when the airport was out of action for about a month.

It is also uncertain if the wages bill for the council’s own day labour workforce will be covered for flood repair work.

Chief executive Evan Pardon said the council had so far spent $6.6 million on priority repairs as a result of the flooding which practically cut off the city from the rest of Australia for two weeks in January.

Funding depreciation has also increased by $3.3 million to $49.8 million.

The financial report presented to councillors this week says that revenue from water utility and services charges has fallen from $31.1 million to $27.6 million as a result of householders using less water.

Budgeted loans outstanding by the end of the financial year are expected to total $196.6 million.

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