David Littleproud, Graeme Collins and Peter Read debate some budget alternatives.
David Littleproud, Graeme Collins and Peter Read debate some budget alternatives. Emma Channon

Meeting finds budget savings

WITH a bit of research and a 40-minute brainstorming session, four Warwick business identities yesterday came up with a suggestion to slash 3% from the Southern Downs Regional Council's average general rate increase of 9.6%.

The Daily News held an “in camera meeting” of its own to take a practical look at budget alternatives after Cr Ross Bartley told a business rates meeting every $347,000 saved would reduce the average rate increase by 1%.

We invited local business brains to debate where they would trim down the budget if council were their business.

Warwick Chamber of Commerce president David Littleproud, Warwick Credit Union chief executive Lewis Von Stieglitz, Warwick Daily News general manager Peter Read and businessman Graeme Collins did some number crunching of their own.

Cr Ross Bartley, Vic Pennisi and Cameron Gow voted against the budget, which was released two weeks ago.

At a meeting on Wednesday night, Cr Bartley gave the magic $347,000 number and said he believed, to reduce the figure, services would need to be cut. He asked what services people would be happy to lose.

“When I first came into council I thought it was just roads, rates and rubbish – but I soon found out people expect a lot more than that,” he said.

By putting off vehicle replacements, stopping office upgrades and keeping computers, the group managed to take almost $1 million off the $60 million budget, which would bring the average general rate increase down to 6.6%.

This reduction was without looking at efficiencies or reducing services, but the group also discussed bringing the rate even further down by doing things like putting parks and gardens out to contract.

This reduction didn't take into consideration selling off council assets, namely Slade Campus, which costs $0.5 million a year to run, not taking into consideration the interest it racks up as council slowly pays back the $3.65 million it borrowed to purchase it.

Whether or not council can do anything now about the budget remains to be seen but the general consensus was it should not be increasing rates above CPI.

While local authorities' CPI is set at almost double the normal rate, the group questioned whether this simply had to change.

Around the table the group members agreed council should be dictating to its staff by how much their departments should seek in efficiency gains without cutting services to keep downward pressure on rates.

 

How we did it:

Vehicles: $437K

Yangan depot: $250K

Fitzroy St: $70K

Chamber works: $50K

Phones: $20K

Computers: $170K = $997K = 2.8%



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