Council claims strong financials

WELLINGTON Shire Council finished the financial year in a strong position.

Council’s 2013-14 annual report shows it had a surplus of $144,000, however, the adjusted operating results, which excludes asset recognition and write-offs, and developer contributions, shows a deficit of $790,000.

This is well below the budgeted $5.1 million.

In the previous financial year, council had an adjusted surplus of $6.4 million and a $2.1 million surplus in 2011-12.

Factors in the 2013-14 result were the $1 million in Country Roads and Bridges funding allocation being invoiced in advance.

Council also received $750,000 for the Port of Sale Cultural Hub earlier than expected.

Additional rates revenue of $400,000 was received following the finalisation of supplementary rates assessments, while council saved $900,000 in employee costs because of vacancies and efficiencies gained through an operational review.

Revenue raised through rates increased from 55.6 per cent in 2012-13 to 64.8 per cent. This was below budget, but the proportion was reduced because of increases in other income streams, such as grants.

Total expenditure decreased by around $700,000 (or 0.9 per cent) compared to 2012-13, largely due to lower contract payments, and material and service costs.

During the last financial year, council spent $23.4 million on capital works.

Among the 105 projects completed, council purchased a building on Desailly St, Sale for its new corporate headquarters ($4.1 million), expanded the Stratford Kindergarten ($300,000), upgraded Glassford Street Kindergarten, Maffra ($400,000), upgraded the Rosedale pool ($700,000) and erected new lighting at the Maffra Recreation Reserve ($200,000).

Council spent $8.9 million on improving local roads, bridges and footpaths.

It also spent $2.9 million on construction of the Yarram District Hub, which is due to be completed early next year.

Council’s debt has gone from $9.7 million at the end of 2012-13 to $15.97 million.

Council borrowed $9 million to fund the purchase of the new corporate headquarters, $3 million for the payment of unfunded superannuation obligations and $1 million for the construction of the Yarram Hub.

With $1.3 million borrowed to fund the upgrade of the Princes Highway-Cobains Rd intersection in Sale and $0.82 million in existing debt to be repaid, debt is forecast to fall to $14.37 million by the end of this financial year.

Cash holdings finished the financial year at the similar level to 2012-13 at $36.2 million, compared to the $16.8 million budgeted. Factors in this were lower borrowings and $8.1 million in works being carried forward into this financial year.

Council’s performance report for the first three months of this financial year reveals a $38.3 million surplus, against the budget of $37 million.

Council income to the end of September was $55.8 million, slightly ahead of the budgeted $54.8 million, while expenditure was $17.5 million, compared to $17.8 million in the budget.

Council expects the final result for 2014-15 to be slightly worse than budgeted by $900,000, largely because of costs carried forward from 2013-14.

Of the 136 projects planned for this year, 10 per cent are complete, 24 per cent have begun, four per cent are in the contract stage, 60 per cent in pre-planning. Two per cent of projects are on hold subject to scope or funding being finalised, including Maxfield’s Footbridge renewal, Taylor’s Lane upgrade and the shelter upgrade at Rutter Park, Port Albert.

Works for the Sale Livestock Exchange upgrade are expected to begin next month.

Works at the new corporate headquarters are expected to finish in January, while architects are currently developing concepts for the new Port of Sale Cultural Hub.