Council set to release proposed budget for community feedback
Published on 16 April 2021
The City of Launceston will spend almost $25 million on its capital works program if Councillors vote to send the proposed 2021/22 budget out for public for consultation next week.
City of Launceston Acting Mayor Danny Gibson said the Council's proposed expenditure of $130 million for the 2021/22 financial year includes significant spending on the municipality's recreational facilities ($24.19 million), $12 million on roads and traffic maintenance and improvements as well as $5.9 million for extension capping at the Launceston Waste Centre.
Additionally, the Council will invest in the ongoing implementation of the My Place My Future plan, programs at the QVMAG, Smart City initiatives, maintaining our contributions to regional partnerships and continued investment in community grants and events sponsorship.
Other capital projects included in the proposed budget are $3.2 million for major road restruction, $1 million for urban road resealing, $750,000 for Reimagining the Gorge, $450,000 for footpath resealing and $460,000 for the redevelopment of car parking at Churchill Park.
In 2021, Council's proposed rate increase of 3.9 per cent was scrapped in response to the COVID pandemic. Cr Gibson said the proposed general rate increase of 3.75 per cent for 2021/22 was significantly offset by the rate freeze in the previous financial year as part of the Council's $8.7 million Community Care and Recovery Package.
This freeze resulted in lost revenue in excess of $2.2 million in the 2020/21 year, which compounds annually given it was a true freeze, not an increase and subsequent remission of rates.
"On face value, any rate rise will have an impact, but given the Council had no increase whatsoever in 2020/21 - as opposed to a rate remission - Launceston ratepayers will actually be in a better position than others," Cr Gibson said.
The Council remains in a strong financial position, Cr Gibson said, despite budgeting for a $7.1 million underlying deficit in 2021/22.
"Through careful and prudent planning aligned to our Long-Term Finance Plan, we are confident the Council will return to a full surplus by 2025/26.
Cr Gibson said the Council faced a number of financial challenges over the past year - including the impacts of the COVID pandemic - but it was important that the organisation acted responsibly and with expedience to mitigate those impacts on its community.
"The Community Care and Recovery Package was significant in terms of the Council doing what it could at a time when our community was at most risk," Cr Gibson said.
"I firmly believe that the $8.7 million package - which included a rates freeze, grants for businesses and rent remissions - went a long way to help protect our community and our businesses from the impacts of the pandemic.
"On the flip side, it did result in the Council taking a significant hit to its bottom line and it will continue to do so over the next three or four years.
"However, the positives far outweigh the negatives as far as we're concerned. I think the entire municipality is in a much better place than we would have been without the Council's care package."
Waste and recycling charges remain challenging for all Local Governments across the country, Cr Gibson said, with Launceston budgeting for a 10.4 per cent increase in costs over the coming financial year.
"This, coupled with the ongoing impacts of increasing depreciation costs, continue to be a challenge, while the increasing operating costs of our two museum sites and the University of Tasmania Stadium is an issue the Council has and will continue to address these impacts through our future direction plans for those facilities," Cr Gibson said.
If those two operations were transferred to a Trust model, the Council would save approximately $8 million annually.
Cr Gibson encouraged all residents and ratepayers to read through the Council's budget proposal and make a submission through our engagement process.
"It is vitally important that, as a Council, we have a complete understanding of what matters to our community," Cr Gibson said.
Submissions to the proposed 2021/22 budget can be made until 5pm on Friday, May 7 by email to Proposedbudget2022@launceston.tas.gov.au or in writing addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, City of Launceston, PO Box 396, Launceston 7250.