Cuts flagged following $4.8m super bill

PAYMENTS of unfunded superannuation may impact services provided by Wellington Shire Council, according to a councillor.

Council has been required to make a $4.8 million top-up payment to the Local Authorities Superannuation Fund defined benefit scheme, and has joined a local government push for legislative reform to reduce its future superannuation burden.

While the defined benefit scheme was closed to new members in 1993, current State and Federal laws require it to hold enough funds to cover the retirement benefits owed to members now and into the future.

Local councils were required to sign an agreement to fund the scheme for staff who were part of the scheme.

Wellington Shire Council’s draft financial statements show the $4.8 million superannuation bill, along with other factors, has led to council’s expenses being $12.2 million higher than budgeted for the past financial year.

Councillor Leo O’Brien said the superannuation liability was going to affect much of council’s efforts to be responsible with its finances.

“That’s going to reflect sadly on some of our programs and some of our capital works going forward,” he said.

Other factors in the higher than budgeted expenses were an increased contribution toward voluntary assistance payments to land owners affected by the Wellington Coast Subdivision Strategy, and funding for recovery after the June floods, change rooms for the Rosedale Recreation Reserve and a feasibility study for the Yarram Community Centre.

According to the draft statements, council recorded a surplus of $7.023 million, more than the $2.162 million budgeted.

Council received $69.5 million in revenue, almost $10 million more than budget.

Behind this was the early receipt of $5.8 million in government grants and unbudgeted support for the Wellington Coast Subdivision Strategy, Loch Sport emergency preparedness and natural disaster resilience.

Cr O’Brien said statements highlighted council’s efforts to right its finances.

“The financial statement reflect the fact that we’ve been a very financially responsible council for the past several years and have started to get the council on a very good footing in terms of being in a position to expand our programs,” he said.

“In fact, the capital works program I think has doubled in the past eight years.”

The statements, which also provided an update on projects across the shire, showed the June floods had delayed the completion of the West Sale Airport upgrade to this financial year, connection between Cemetery and Maffra-Sale Rds, and unsealed road reconstructions.

Funding has been delayed for the Heyfield Apex Park redevelopment, which has been deferred to this financial year.

Repair work on the historic Glenmaggie Bridge will begin this month after a cultural heritage significance assessment was completed.

The draft statements have been reviewed by council’s audit committee, of which Cr O’Brien is a member alongside mayor Peter Cleary and three community members, and will now be reviewed by the State Auditor General before being formally adopted.