Our 2017/18 Budget: a win for those in Our Community who contributed to the process.

After the most significant contribution from our community in who knows how long Council has determined its budget for 2017/18. A win for those in our Community who contributed to the process.

 

As I suggested in my blog post entitled “Please Stay with Us” the contribution from our community has seen positive results. Many initiatives suggested have now been included in the budget.

Those that have not have been earmarked for council to contemplate as projects later in the year. Should any of those projects receive council endorsement we will need to include them in one of our quarterly budget reviews.

The inclusion of the extra initiatives has seen the rate increase lift from 2.8 % to 2.9%.

The significance of this budget is the expectation that some of those projects we have been contemplating since before I joined Council may occur sooner rather than later. This includes:

  • the start of the Brownhill Creek Flood Mitigation project,
  • the redevelopment of the Unley Oval grandstand. This will be the culmination of a number of improvements at that ground.
  • Possible commencement of the Goodwood Oval and the Millswood Sporting Reserve,
  • Possible commencement of the redevelopment of King William Road between Arthur Street and Mitchell/Park Streets.

A win for those in our community who contributed to the process.

It will also see something I have been championing since my early days on Council. That is an improvement in service standard in the reactive maintenance of our footpaths.

Of course, we have also had to pass on a 9% increase in the NRM levy that Councils are forced to collect on behalf of the government. Our rate payers are contributing the equivalent of 3.1% of our rate-able income. That is a whopping (in excess of) $ 1.2 m. And we are collecting $ 38.3 m in rates.

If you want to know more about what the budget includes you can check it out here.

Welcome to Our World.

Following on from my last blog post, there are two observations I believe warrant making in this platform. The first is welcome to our world and please stay with us.

I will deal with the latter in a later blog post.

With some of the observations that our ratepayers have made on this years draft budget I say welcome to our world. You are experiencing what we (the councillors) experience each year.

Elected members historically focus only on new initiatives in our budget deliberations. New initiatives in the operating projects amount this year to $ 1.2 m. This is very small compared to our general rates income of some $ 38 m.

Ongoing operating programs are reviewed regularly by elected members during what is known as regular service reviews. They are therefore not addressed at budget time . This includes a number of initiatives in our environment strategy.

Things like maintaining our parks and gardens. That includes the Village Green. So while we have been criticised by some for not allowing maintenance of the Village green in our budget we have. It just is not highlighted. Showing the maintenance of every one of our parks and gardens woudl make for a very complex budget and therefore not shown.

Then there are new initiatives such as the Brownhill Creek flood mitigation project, funded through capital works and loan funding. The biggest single environmental project I suggest we have ever done.

Talking roads, rates and rubbish which some have asked us to focus on. We have been asked to spend more in this area. After a service review we will actually be spending some $ 1.0 m pa more on reactive footpath repair. Requests to resurface Kenilworth Road. It is in the budget.

Yes. Welcome to our world.

We elected members focus on just 1/40th of the overall budget. You get to comment on that too.

This is not easy for sure but please stay with us. If you do you will become more intimate with the budget and it’s real depth.

Proud of our Community’s contribution to determining our next budget.

Before this year I have not seen much interest from our community in setting our yearly budget. This year I can honestly say I am proud of our Community’s contribution to determining our next budget.

So why am I proud of our Community’s contribution to determining our next budget?

Previously we have seen only between one and four members of the public turn up to our information sessions. This year we had in excess of 25. Numerous requests and observations were received on our have your say site, or by email or letter. This has followed on from the keen interest our community showed recently in the Unley Central DPA.

We have always had good community consultation on all manner of things. For some reason we have not on the budget itself. As a result, I believed this to mean our Community were telling us that they have already had their say on the various projects. More to the point they were happy to leave it to us to determine the priorities.

With the Sword of Damocles of the State Liberals rate capping promise for the next election sitting over our heads our community did not focus on this. Their attention was focused in lieu on the priorities of programs in the draft.

A significant portion of the observations we received focused on:

  1. Our being too much a “happy city” focused on events.
  2. There being too much focus on what they see as favouring the Sturt Footy Club.
  3. A concern over the first two possibly contributing to a reduction in spending on environmental issues.

Whilst I am proud of our Community’s contribution to determining our next budget we are yet to see what impact it has. I believe we will see Council make some meaningful adjustments in response to our Community.

What do you want from Council

What do you want from Council in the next 12 months or even the next 4 years.

We are asking you to help us prioritise what Council does for you in the next 12 months and beyond. The first step was for us to prepare a draft Community and Business Plan, and accompanying budget for next year, which we have now done.

You have had and many of you have taken opportunity previously to help and guide us to design our individual programs.

The next step is for you to provide your input into how we should prioritise the many programs we have or envisage. We would dearly love to hear from you. Check out this video and be stimulated into giving us your thoughts as to how we should prioritise the many things we do.

For more detail and an opportunity to respond check the links below which from part of our Have Your Say webpage.

Draft Annual Business Plan and Budget 2017 – 2018

This sets out the program we expect to conduct over the next twelve months, including the budget.

Draft Community Plan and 4 Year Delivery Plan 2018 – 2021.

We have taken the opportunity to review our Community Plan. This review coincides with the development of a new 4 Year Delivery Plan which provides focus for priority in program delivery.

How to provide comment
Have your say by:

  • Providing feedback online at Your Say Unley
  • Sending a written submission to The City of Unley, PO Box 1, Unley SA 5061

Hard copies of the draft plans are available from the Unley Civic Centre, 181 Unley Road, Unley.

Public Meetings
Our staff will be available to discuss the draft plans with you at the following public information sessions:

  • Monday 15 May, 10.30 – 11.30am. Goodwood Library, 101 Goodwood Road, Goodwood
  • Tuesday 16 May, 2 – 3pm. Fullarton Park Community Centre, 411 Fullarton Road, Fullarton
  • Wednesday 24 May, 5.30 – 6.30pm. Unley Civic Centre, 181 Unley Road, Unley

So! What do you want from Council?

 

Using Loan Funding for Capital Works and Replacement

Council has long had a policy of using loan funding for Capital Works and Replacement. Doing so spreads the burden of capital expenditure over current and future rates.

Following on from my post introducing this years budget, if you look deeply into this years draft budget you will see that we are planning to have $15.7m of loans outstanding as at June 2018. This is $ 1.0m more than predicted for June 30 this year.

Our capital expenditure will actually grow by $ 3.5m during the next twelve months.

Most of this will be to fund our contribution to the Brownhill Creek Flood Mitigation Scheme. Part will be to fund the upgrade of the Goodwood Oval Grandstand. Part to provide detailed concept (project shovel ready) plans for the Goodwood Oval and Millswood Sport Grounds improvement plan. The Unley Oval improvement plan and the King William Road master plan will also be funded this way.

Whilst committing funds to these projects we will be paying back our current loans to the tune of $ 2.5m.

Loans of such magnitude can be frightening to some not personally used to loans of this size, including elected members. Having said that I remember when I first secured a home loan I could borrow 7 times my annual wage. Using that formula Council could conceivably borrow $ 280m.

That said this will not ever happen. We have a commitment to borrow no more than 80% of our net operating revenue (or approx $ 32m on today’s revenue).

Some might also suggest that we should not penalise future generations by burdening them with “such high” loans. If you have the cash to do this that is a reasonable observation.

The only way we could do this would be to increase the rates. If we did this to fund just $ 1.0m of capital expenditure we would need to increase rates in the order of 2.5%, nearly as much again as what we are currently proposing this year.

Council will continue therefore with a policy of using loan funding for Capital Works and Replacement.

DRAFT 2017-18 ANNUAL BUSINESS PLAN AND BUDGET OUT FOR CONSULTATION

Before Council settles on it’s 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget we are looking for your input.

At last night’s Full Council Meeting we moved and approved that:

1. The report be received.
2. The proposed list of net Operating Projects of $1.232 m be endorsed for community consultation.
3. The proposed list of net New Capital of $3.790 m be endorsed for community consultation.
4. The proposed list of net Capital Replacement of $7.445 m be endorsed for community consultation.
5. The Draft 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget be endorsed for the purpose of community consultation, to be conducted between 3 May and 26 May 2017.
6. The Chief Executive Officer be authorised to make any necessary minor edits required for consistency or clarity to the Draft 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget, if required.
7. The community consultation process outlined in the report be endorsed.

I encourage you to examine the 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget so that you may become familiar with what we are proposing. Tell us what you believe we should be doing; what services we have not included you believe we should include, those services we have included but you believe are not required; or what should be modified

The 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget can be found here at page 19, item 832: It provides detailed information regarding the:

• proposed projects to be undertaken
• services provided by Council to the community,
• resources required by the City of Unley to deliver the services and projects, and
• funding required (proposed rates increase and estimated borrowings).

To deliver all proposed projects and maintain current service levels. We will require a rate increase of 2.8% and new borrowings in the order of $3.4 m

Please take the opportunity to examine the 2017-18 Annual Business Plan and Budget and provide us your observations.

Watch out for invitations to examine and observe in the following:

Advertising in the Eastern Courier Messenger

• Online consultation on Your Say Unley

• Notification on Council’s website with appropriate links to the Draft Annual Business Plan and Your Say Unley

• Advertising in the Unley Life Column

• Development of a video for social media and website (This is page 22 of the Council Agenda Reports for 24 April 2017)

Further, why not attend one of three public meetings/community information sessions. Timing is proposed as follows:

Goodwood Library 15 May 10.30am- 11.30am

Fullarton Park Community Centre 16 May 2 pm – 3 pm

Civic Centre 24 May 5.30pm – 6.30pm

State Government 2016-17 budget in black courtesy of Local Gov.

It has been just short of a week since the State Government 2016-17 budget was handed down. This was amid wide acclaim for bringing in a surplus that has previously escaped them. Thanks that is to councils and rate payers.

While the Treasurer trumps his State Government 2016-17 budget surplus of some $ 250 million many in the community are bemoaning council rate increases.

The facts are the State is doing well but mainly on the back of imposts and charges being collected via property taxes. Much of this is collected by Council.

Yes! As the Opposition promote rate capping because Councils can’t be trusted the state government, although ruling out a land tax, are using council rates as a stealth alternative.

Unprecedented increases in the Solid Waste Levy will see around $35 million per annum paid by councils by 2019/2020. This is despite the state government refusing to release $90 million of previously collected Waste Levy funding. More than a third of this was contributed by councils and rate payers. Councils have contributed $110 million to the Waste Levy over the past ten years and will contribute another $122 million to state government coffers over the next 4 years.

The state government is taking more and more property taxation – local government’s traditional and only tax base. The attached graph illustrates that the State is now raising 56% of property taxes to local government’s 44%. As I have noted in recent blog posts on rate capping less than 4% of tax nationally is collected by Councils. Adding to this state and federal budget decisions are squeezing council budgets from every direction and forcing ratepayers to pay more in rates.

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State Government 2016-17 budget

Curiously the rebate offered by the Government last year in lieu of the rebate deducted from council rates previously, is offered to help you (if you qualify) with a subsidy to help pay such things as your water and other utility rates, but NOT council.

Budget Approved at 2.2%

After months of work and a seemingly never ending conversation Coucnil last night approved the 2016/17 budget.

 

imagesIn recent days that conversation became quite polarised with a small number of councillors pushing for a 2.7% increase. The change in the conversation during this time alarmed me in that there was no prerequisite to raise the rate increase we had worked on all that time. Just an arbitrary and without foundation we believe it should grow by 0.5%.

 

Thankfully Coucnil showed a maturity and demonstrated leadership by approving the 2.2% rate increase which had been nominated in our public consultation. A rate increase we had no fewer than 4 outside experts confirm as a responsible rate increase and a responsible and sustainable level of debt.

With the lowest rate rise in the time I have been on council I believe we have set a responsible and sustainable budget.

It includes from those of us who live in the west of Unley’s point of view the following:

      Councils contribution to the under-grounding of power lines @ $ 300,000 of Goodwood Road

      Upgrade of Goodwood Road streetscape and way finding @ $ 3.3 m (using loan funding)

      Continuation of the implementation of the King William Road Master Plan

      An increase in funding to address issues raised thus far in our LATM study

      $ 250,000 towards preliminary works on Brownhill Creek

      Safety road works around the Goodwood Primary School

      Footpath replacements in Laught Avenue Black Forest. The remainder of footpaths in the Clarence Park ward are scheduled for 2017/18 when the program terminates.

      Tennis Court resurfacing and fence repair at Page Park.

      A catch up of CPI for our community grants scheme.

      Fruit trees in Princess Margaret Playground

      Responding to tree risk assessment in Dora Guild Playground

In signing off I note that a 2.2% increase on annual rates paid say of last year at $ 1,600.00 equates to an increase of $ 35.00. This is of course subject to whether your homes value (as determined by the Valuer General) alters at the same rate as the combination of all properties in Unley. In other words there may be some variation to this.

The minimum rate will increase by $ 17.00 to $ 758.00

 

Lower Rate verses Lower loan funding the question in Unley’s budget

Council on Monday night will consider as part of the rate budget how much loan funding we should use to fund council programs.

 

loan approvedWhen we as individual property owners need to improve or redevelop our property we will be faced with how to finance any such project. Like I suggested in my last blog post he larger the project the more likely we are to finance it by way of loan funding. This is because the larger the project the more likely it is we cannot fund it without loan funding.

The same applies to council. Indeed I would suggest the longer a newly created or improved asset we purchase will live the more we should consider using loan funding for it.

If we build an addition to our home the chances are we are going to use loans to fund it, assuming we can service the loan. If we can’t service the loan we cant pay cash and we should not be undertaking the project. Coucnil does have an option though. Almost like winning the lottery and being able therefore to pay cash Council can pay for it now by simply saying to current rate payers we are going to lift your rates.

I put it that each component of that addition a home owner will do to their home will invariably be loan funded rather than by using cash. That means the curtains you might pay for by cash in a room in your existing house, or the re-tiling you might do in your existing bathroom, or the pergola you might put on the rear of your house will funded by loan funding if part of a larger/major redevelopment.

Councillors can be emotionally frightened of debt and that is to be expected and understandable. They are people just like you. They could easily take the increase the rates approach. Let’s face it (as noted above) we have a captive audience.

I for one am satisfied that the “curtains, tiles and pergolas” that have been included in larger projects like the Goodwood Road redevelopment and the Cycle Path can and should be included in the loan funding for those projects.

Why would we bother to pull them (things like street signs, line marking etc) out and pay cash for them. To pull them out and account for them separately will actually add to our administrative costs.

It is not a case in other words Lower Rate verses Lower loan funding but budgeting for the both today’s rate payer and tomorrows rate payer to contribute based on good financial management practices. Unless convinced otherwise on the night by alternate logic I will be staying therefore with loan funding as planned and with keeping your rate increase down to 2.2%.

2.2% or 2.7% rate increase or something else the question for council

Council sits on Monday night to consider our annual business plan and budget. The focus will be whether or we adopt a 2.2%, 2.7% rate increase or something else. That is the question for council.

Rate CappingAs mentioned in my last blog post Council up to now at least seems divided on what this years rate increase should be. You would be well aware by now that we have been long considering a 2.2% increase. Coupled with that is an intent to increase loan funding by $ 3.3m to fund long term projects.

We are likely to debate on the night increasing the rate increase the rate by 2.7% and reduce the increase in loan funding we have been considering.

The theory behind this is we should not be diverting funding of today’s projects to future generations. Put them in debt so we can enjoy now. Sounds a bit like the spend the kids inheritance now statement we are all familiar with. Having said that much of what we are contemplating is to the benefit of the future generations more so than it will be for the coming generation. The challenge then is to determine how much should be paid for now verses how much the next generation should pay for given projects.

As I see it Council is no different to our rate payers. Council has an annual income, so do we. The method of creating that income and the control over how much income can be achieved of course differs but I am not going to talk about that here. Council owns “real” assets (property, roads, footpaths, parks). So do we.

When we need to improve or redevelop our property we will be faced with how to finance any such project. The larger the project the more likely we are to finance it by way of loan funding. This is because the larger the project the more likely it is we cannot fund it without loan funding. The same applies to council. Indeed I would suggest the longer the life span of a newly created an asset we purchase the more we should consider using loan funding for it, unless of course we have won the lottery and can afford to pay cash.

If we build an addition to our home the chances are we are going to use loans to fund it, assuming we can service the loan. If we cant service the loan we cant pay cash and we should not be undertaking the project.

So….2.2% or 2.7% rate increase.