Armidale Regional Council's draft operational plan and budget with a focus on back to basics service delivery and improved financial results is now on public exhibition.
Community consultation is also being undertaken on the proposed four year Armidale and Guyra rates harmonisation implementation framework.
Armidale Regional Council General Manager James Roncon said it was important for residents to have their say on the proposed increases to fees and charges, the budget and financial direction of council.
"This budget is the first step of a long and disciplined road in maintaining levels of service to the community and improving Council's financial position," said Mr Roncon.
"The council's financial position is dire but this year's budget is about bringing council to a point where we can deliver basic services and set a foundation that addresses the requirement of the Performance Improvement Order that Council is operating under.
"This also means we need to keep saving money to build up our available funds for at least the next three or four budgets to enable council to address the condition of some of our assets that are deteriorating.
Mr Roncon said council was currently predominantly relying on state and federal grants to address deteriorating assets and fund new ones.
"This isn't sustainable and council needs to be able to have cash reserves available to contribute to improving our assets or for any unexpected situation," he said.
The draft documents were endorsed for public exhibition on Wednesday at the May ordinary council meeting and detail the proposed activities and budget and supporting rates, charges and fees for the 2021-2022 financial year.
The 2021-2022 financial year will also see the introduction of the harmonisation of rates between the former Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire Councils proposed to be undertaken over four years.
"Council's financial position has been impacted by the recent drought, bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr Roncon said.
"The 2021-2022 Draft Operational Plan and Budget attempts to mitigate these impacts as far as possible without cuts to services."
Mr Roncon stressed the budget position will be supported with strategies to ensure costs are tightly controlled and financial management across the business is a key priority.
We'd really like to do it now but don't have enough cash in reserves, it will take many years of saving and reducing our annual expenditure.
"When you review the proposed budget you will see a modest surplus has been forecast for the general, water and sewer funds, which looks positive and is testament to the hard work of Council officers but doesn't really tell you the complete picture," he said.
"Consider when you do your own family budgets.
"The house needs a new roof but you will need to save up over many years to pay for it. You'd also like a new car. It's not essential but wouldn't it be nice. If you try to fix the roof quickly and buy the new car you'll spend all your available budget in that year and you won't have enough money left to live on.
"This is the same for council's budget.
"Our assets are similar to fixing your roof. We'd really like to do it now but don't have enough cash in reserves, it will take many years of saving and reducing our annual expenditure.
"This includes new projects that would be great assets to the community but are not essential at this time."
However there is some good news to come out of the draft budget Mr Roncon said.
"Council has been able to take advantage of considerable stimulus funding provided by state and federal governments to combat the negative effects of the drought, bushfires and the pandemic," he said.
"Council was also successful in obtaining approval to turn a temporary Special Rate Variation into a permanent one from 2021-2022 financial year.
"This will provide critical funding for asset renewal."
In 2021-2022 Council will direct $5.8 million into key asset renewal programs including kerb and gutter and footpath replacement, urban and rural road re-sealing, gravel re-sheeting, stormwater drainage and building renewals.
With the inclusion of over $36 million in capital grants, Council's 2021-2022 capital program totals $65 million.
"However it must also be remembered that these projects also require expenditure and resources from council's own finances, further straining and lengthening the time it will take to restore council's finances."
The Draft Operational Plan and Budget 2021-2022 will be on public exhibition until Thursday 24 June on council's your say online engagement hub and in hard copy at the civic administration buildings in Armidale and Guyra and at the libraries.
An information session will be held in Armidale on Tuesday, June 8 from 5.30pm at the Council Chambers and in Guyra on Wednesday, June 9 from 5.30pm in the Guyra Council Chambers.
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