New finance manager
TWO months in the job and new Southern Downs Regional Council finance manager Tony Brett has less than one month to balance the books of a region facing a flood recovery bill bigger than its normal entire budget, but he has his calculator and experience at the ready.
Mr Brett has worked in local government for around 12 years.
Originally from northern NSW, he completed his studies in Armidale and initially worked in tax and compliance work just before the GST came in.
He has spent much of his working life in the Northern Territory, kick-starting his career there with a job in the Department of Local Government.
Up north he was involved in finance when five councils were amalgamated, so he knows all about the headaches of mashing together separate entities, though he reckons Southern Downs is now past the worst.
“I think a lot of the amalgamation administration issues have been resolved,” Mr Brett said.
“The systems between here and Stanthorpe are in place.
“There are some technical issues that need to be sorted out, but it’s a work in progress.
“It’s time to get on to the next phase now and there’s a great opportunity to move things forward.”
Mr Brett did a short stint in Toowoomba but missed the Northern Territory and went back north.
He worked with Darwin Council for five years, as finance manager for three, but then, together with his wife Wanda and two children, Thomas and Matilda, decided it was time to move closer to family.
Mr Brett did nine months of full time service with the finance department of the army in Brisbane.
Mrs Brett is originally a Warwick local, hence the reason he moved to the Rose City, where the family has been living for the past two years.
He was still doing finance work for the army and some consulting before the council role, which was formerly filled by Gillian Buganey, became available.
“I’m settling in pretty well,” he said.
“It’s a good team here.
“I’m easing myself in working on the budget but am working on the financial statements now.”
With two weeks until the end of the financial year it’s a challenge in itself, especially as flood-recovery funding details remain up in the air.
While last year’s budget was close to $55 million, the cost of the flood has been estimated as close to $70m, though the final assessment still has to be done.
Mr Brett said it’s a case of balancing up the level of service council provides to the community and trying to get the recovery finished as quickly as possible.
“Managing cash flow to keep things going is the challenge,” he said.
“It is going to have a big impact on our process.”