Council delays finalising budget

By ADRIAN MILLER

YESTERDAY'S Clarence Valley Council extraordinary meeting was supposed to set a financial way forward for the council.

The rates structure, revenue policy and management plans for 2006-07 were due to be signed off so they could be publicly exhibited well before the June 30 deadline.

But things didn't quite go to plan. Councillors were happy to sign off on a rate rise, which will see the income collected by rates increase by 3.6 per cent, but when it came to the budget, things didn't go as smoothly.

With some councillors only receiving their budget papers late on Monday, most felt there simply wasn't enough time to devour the information and make an informed decision.

So yesterday afternoon they decided to defer making a resolution on the budget and will hold a workshop next week to clarify some issues.

They aim to come to a judgement before next week's ordinary council meeting, which will allow enough time for it to be publicly displayed before June 30.

Mayor Ian Tiley said the decision to postpone wasn't a major setback.

"We've still got time on our side," he said.

"We've got to set the rates by June 30 and also have a public consultation of a month ? we can still achieve that ? so I was more than happy (to defer)."

Cr Tiley said the proposed 2006-07 budget had a deficit of around $840,000, but he was confident that would be erased before the end of the year.

"If the council doesn't want to go with a deficit, they're going to have to find areas to further trim the budget," he said, "or adopt the suggestion I've given them, which is going in with a deficit and charging the general manager with responsibilities to refine the structure."

However, some councillors appear reluctant to sign off on the current budget because of funding shortfalls for certain projects.

Cr Doug Mackenzie was unhappy coastal walking trails missed out, while Cr Kerry Lloyd was disappointed the Wooli Volunteer Rescue Association hadn't been allocated funds.

But all hope is not lost.

Next Tuesday's workshop will allow councillors the opportunity to further discuss funding proposals.

After budget negotiations, council will spend the rest of the year liaising with the community to determine what it believes are the more important projects, Cr Tiley said.

"The councillors are determined that in the next six months we're going to look at all of our priority areas," he said.

"We want to firm up, with community consultation, our priorities across the council area so that this time next year we can pick the highest priorities in those areas and fund them. We haven't had time yet to do that because we've had many, many other areas to address and we can't do everything over night."



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