Georges River Council's common sense budget

Councils have a core responsibility for collecting garbage, repairing roads and making sure the parks are mowed, but they also have to be the glue that keeps community together, Georges River Council mayor Kevin Greene said.
Councils have a core responsibility for collecting garbage, repairing roads and making sure the parks are mowed, but they also have to be the glue that keeps community together, Georges River Council mayor Kevin Greene said.

Back to basics is the theme of the 2020/21 budget adopted by Georges River Council this week.

The budget adopted by the council this week, continuing with its maintenance program, services, major events and support for community groups while protecting its cash reserves.

"The good news is that Georges River Council is still liquid," mayor Kevin Greene said.

"We have maintained all the services that you would expect of a council to the standard you would expect for a council," Councillor Greene said.

"We have also maintained all staffing levels. We have not had to stand down one person during the COVID pandemic. (The council has about 600 FTE employees.) We are maintaining those staffing levels.

"We have introduced our Social Economic Recovery Plan for capital works and recognising some of the difficulties our local businesses are facing."

The $47 million plan contains measures to aid the recovery of the local economy such as reducing DA fees for commercial fitouts, reducing outdoor dining fees, and waiving rents for council's commercial premises and premium sporting facilities.

"We have also experienced a reduction in income for this financial year," Cr Greene said.

"We don't know what the next financial year will bring. The figure is a guesstimate.

"For six to seven weeks child care centres had reduced numbers so we missed out on regular income there, along with parking enforcement, commercial rentals. Netstrata Jubilee missed out on eight games between the A-League and NRL.

"Marana auditorium and all our entertainment venues closed and our community centres.

"A clearer picture for the loss of income for April, May and June should be known next few weeks.

"But all our community grants have been maintained. 3Bridges, St George Community Services, Kingsgrove Community Aid will continue to receive the financial support that has always been part of the council's commitment to the community.

"The $400,000 we had in last year's budget to support these groups is also in this year's budget.

"We are maintaining those because in tough times a lot of people using these services are also doing it tough.

"We are also maintaining our maintenance program including stormwater works and road resheeting.

"And we are still maintaining our environmental programs for Georges River and Bushcare."

The council is also keeping its major events program of Lunar New Year, Australia Day and Magic of Christmas. These events are attended by an estimated 80,000."

Cr Greene said these events are particularly important for the community as its goes forward in its recovery from the disruption caused by COVID.

"The more things you can do in tough times to encourage people not to think and act negatively the better," Cr Greene said.

"We need people to come through this situation with a positive mind-set."

The council will also support community events we sponsor such as the Oatley Village Festival and the Lugarno Lions Spring Festival. These attract an estimated 50,000.

"It is important to continue these events and to maintain these community connections. This way people stay connected.

"The events budget is $1.4 million and we get a fantastic return for that investment.

"The Library Story Times, Writings Festival, Living Books and Reading program for school holidays will all continue.

"You need to promote community. Councils have a core responsibility for collecting garbage, repairing roads and making sure the parks are mowed.

"But they also have to be the glue that keeps community together. These community events are important because without them people don't feel inclusion."

While the council has had to postpone some projects it will have a $40 million capital works program.

This includes the Penshurst Park sporting hub (funded by developer contributions), the Ormonde Parade Streetscape Project, Mortdale town centre upgrade and the Hurstville Oval Pavilion.

There is the new Hurstville Golf Course clubhouse which will be funded by $2 million from the State Government's Stronger Communities Fund plus $400,000 from the golf club.

The Oatley Park Sporting Amenities block is being funded by $500,000 in federal government grants and $300,000 from the state government.

The Harold Fraser Parkside Drive waterways works which will be funded by $2 million from Sydney Water and $200,000 from council's developer contributions.

And there is the remediation of the Oatley Bowling Club site.

All these works were approved in this week's budget.

"We are conscious of still keeping the local economy moving," Cr Greene said.

"This is a common sense budget that maintains all our services and keeps staff and local contractors employed.

"There are no superstar standouts, no blue sky visionary projects because it is a back to basics budget."

For 2019/20, Georges River Council has adopted an operating result before capital revenue showing a deficit of $6.124 million.

Georges River Council inherited a combined operating deficit before capital revenue of $8.03 million when Kogarah and Hurstville Councils were amalgamated.

The former Kogarah Council had a deficit of $4.8 million and Hurstville $3.2 million for the 2014/15 financial year.

"This council has inherited that legacy and we are now moving on," Cr Greene said.

"This budget is about protecting our cash reserves because no-one knows the size of the impact of the COVID situation."

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