Projects on hold as APC slashes budget spend

Adelaide Plains Council adopted its annual business plan and budget on Monday evening, July 10, at a special council meeting.

Councillors deliberated on numerous items within the budget, slashing more than half a million dollars expenditure, in order to comfortably pass the document for the 2017/2018 financial year.

Cr Steve Jones spoke against adopting the plan at the June 19 meeting as changes recommended by councillors were not reflected in the document.

“I want to err on the side of caution, as it is in the interest of the ratepayers,” he said.

Cr Keene agreed and moved a motion to adjourn the adoption of the budget and hold a special meeting to workshop the issues, “until we get this right.”

On Monday night, CEO James Miller spoke about the series of failed attempts to hold a special meeting following the initial report presented on June 19.

These failed attempts stemmed from an inability to achieve quorum, Mr Miller indicating a report would be brought to council in the coming weeks.

“I will be itemising and timelining the entire process from the January adoption of the budget timeline, right through ‘til this point now, and get a few things on public record,” he said.

Particular items of contention within the budget were discussed and debated with each councillor identifying their concerns and council staff offering their opinions and advice.

Rajith Udugampola, APC’s general manager of finance and economic development, reiterated to councillors management can advise elected members, but it was their final call, saying, “If you cut money, we will advise of the repercussions.”

And cut they did. Re-kerbing was deferred. Resheeting of three roads was suspended until their usage is investigated further.

Cr Jones identified Thompson Road being used by heavy vehicles, which is illegal as a category three road.

“I would not allow any money to be spent on Thompson Road until this council does something about those heavy vehicles,” he said.

Council is currently sourcing a contract for kerbside waste collection, however if this does not come to fruition, a number of items earmarked for upgrades for in-house management of garbage collection has also been deferred.

CCTV equipment for the Lewiston playground was wiped, despite council staff advising against removing it from the budget.

The controversial roundabout, which will set the council back about $500,000, was passed, primarily due to legally binding agreements regarding the Hickinbotham development.

Council staff’s insistence on the need for a full-time engineer and a 0.6 general inspector were not in vain, however, elected members agreed to a 0.6 engineer and a 0.4 general inspector.

Residents can expect a modest 2.5 per cent increase in rates, but reduction in asset management to compensate.

Council had previously already reduced debts by 1.2 million in the last financial year alone and it is hoped that by 2022, the council will be debt free.

Cr Keene identified the need to keep in mind the outcomes of  APC’s obligations to the Gawler River Flood Management Authority (GRFMA) as well as the obligation to provide for the Two Wells township southern levee.

“There’s too many unknowns with that,” Mr Miller stated.

“This is based on the available information and purely based on the existing loan,” Mr Udugampola added.

“We will be debt free in 2022 based on current loans.”

Elected members were swayed by the collective voice of ratepayers, particularly those of the Adelaide Plains Ratepayers and Residents Association, in a bid to reduce the debt level that has plagued the council for the past few years.

Whether ratepayers will be placated by the budgetary cuts or not will be evident in the coming year, as the consequences of savings measures may manifest.

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