Budget deficit forces staff cuts

NO-ONE at last night's Clarence Valley Council extraordinary meeting shied away from the reality - the 2009/10 Council Budget is going to be tight.

Pervading the budget meeting was the knowledge that some of the infrastructure projects planned for the coming financial year would have to be scrapped in order to keep council's deficit at a manageable level.

Council's general manager Stuart McPherson told councillors that Clarence Valley Council was 'treading a fine line on the financial sustainability stakes'.

It was revealed that at least six staff positions with council - some senior positions - are not going to be filled in order to better balance the books.

Mayor Richie Williamson described the situation as being 'almost to the bone'.

“There are going to be things we want to get done that won't get done,” Cr Williamson said.

“I think Council accepts there will probably be a deficit; but I've asked council officers to report back on how we can keep that deficit to a minimum but still maintain an adequate service level.”

Council's draft 2009/10 Budget will likely allow for a general rate increase of 3.5 per cent.

A projected Budget deficit of $1.2 million is likely to drop to $900,000 if expected savings of $300,000 are made through restructuring.

Councillors have asked council staff to investigate the possibility of reducing that deficit even further, provided service levels are not affected.

While rate options were being discussed, Councillor Margaret McKenna raised the prickly subject of rate inequities.

She said she couldn't understand the rationale behind many Grafton residents paying higher rate levels than many of their wealthy coastal cousins.

There didn't appear to be a great deal of support for her argument; instead being told the inequities were a legacy of pre-amalgamation.

Mayor Richie Willamson said council would consider all the rate options available.

He said councillors would continue discussion on rates and capital projects in the coming weeks.

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