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2024/25 Annual Business Plan and Budget Adopted

2024/25 Annual Business Plan and Budget Adopted
27 June 2024

Council adopted the Annual Business Plan and Budget (ABP&B) 2024/2025, Long Term Financial Plan (LTFP) 2025/2034 and the Asset Management Plans (AMPs) 2025/2034 at a Special Council Meeting held on Tuesday 25 June 2024.

The Annual Business Plan and Budget outlines Council’s proposed services, projects, objectives and key performance indicators for 2024/2025 and includes the rating strategy, rating policies and annual budget.

City of Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin thanked the community for the feedback received during the Draft 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget consultation process.

“We received 11 written submissions via the Have Your Say Mount Gambier website and held two drop-in sessions during the day and evening at the Library in an effort to connect with our residents so that they may better understand the process,” Mayor Martin said.

Cr Kate Amoroso (left), Cr Josh Lynagh, Cr Jason Virgo, Cr Frank Morello, CEO Sarah Philpott, Mayor Lynette Martin, Deputy Mayor Cr Max Bruins, Cr Paul Jenner, Cr Sonya Mezinec, Cr Mark Lovett and Manager Financial Services Julie Scoggins at the Special Council Meeting to consider community feedback on the Draft 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget.
ABP&B Special Council Meeting
Cr Kate Amoroso (left), Cr Josh Lynagh, Cr Jason Virgo, Cr Frank Morello, CEO Sarah Philpott, Mayor Lynette Martin, Deputy Mayor Cr Max Bruins, Cr Paul Jenner, Cr Sonya Mezinec, Cr Mark Lovett and Manager Financial Services Julie Scoggins at the Special Council Meeting to consider community feedback on the Draft 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget.

The formal community submissions were considered at a Special Council Meeting held on Tuesday 18 June 2024. Three community members presented verbal submissions at the meeting and community members asked questions. Council held a workshop after the June Council meeting to consider the feedback received.

Elected Members finalised the budget for the impending financial year this week, following months of intensive discussions to balance Council’s priorities in a difficult financial climate.

Budget deliberations have been particularly challenging this year as we grapple to balance priorities while also being mindful of the cost of living pressures and the provision of service delivery required to meet community expectations and ensure that Council is positioned for long term financial sustainability. - Mayor Lynette Martin

“Elected Members have engaged in the most robust budget discussions I have been part of in my six years as Mayor and I can assure you that no stone was left unturned to balance Council’s short and long term financial obligations for creating capacity to deliver what the community expects in 2024/2025.”

Rates will increase by 10.13 per cent in general rate revenue (excluding growth of 1.11 per cent. Including growth, the total rate increase is 11.24 per cent) to create organisational capacity and achieve all financial targets by 2026/2027. The average residential ratepayer will pay $1,342 (excluding the Waste Service Charge) in 2024/2025 which equates to an overall increase of $119.00 per annum, or $4.00 per week.

“Like everyone in the community, Council is feeling the pressure of cost escalations and has attempted to minimise the impact of increasing costs for our ratepayers for several years. We have previously absorbed the impact of growth and rated below CPI and we are now unable to continue to absorb the true additional service and waste costs and therefore must increase rates,” the Mayor said.

“This is a responsible and strategic budget in the context of creating a great future for Mount Gambier and is year one as we look towards developing Mount Gambier’s vision for 2035. It is about creating capacity to do what we are already doing well, doing it better and deliver what the community wants for the future.”

Major influences and considerations in the 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget process:

  • Council is operating in a deficit position – Council’s operating deficit in 2024/2025 is $1.7 million. Council has a financial target to achieve a positive surplus in 2026/2027.
  • Asset management – Council is the caretaker of $400 million in community assets that require ongoing maintenance. Condition audits and valuations were undertaken throughout the past two financial years for major asset classes and there has been a significant increase in depreciation ($1.1 million above the adopted LTFP, or the equivalent of 4.83 per cent of the rates in 2024/2025). Council has also seen an increase in construction costs, which in turn has increased the capital works budget and the forward works program which has been informed by the condition audits.
  • Inflation - In previous years, Council rates did not keep up with inflation. Rates were below the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the 2023/2024 financial year.
  • Growth - In previous years Council did not increase its budget to reflect unprecedented community growth. Council has tried to minimise the impact of increasing costs for ratepayers over several years now. Council has now absorbed as much of that growth as possible.
  • Federal funding has decreased - Federal Financial Assistance Grants to local government have halved during the past 25 years which means that local communities are missing out on billions of dollars and councils are constantly trying to play catch up. Councils are facing workforce shortages, infrastructure challenges and delivery obligations. City of Mount Gambier is not alone and all councils across the country face similar challenges.
  • Capacity building - Council requires additional capacity to deliver a budget and LTFP that provides the levels of service that the community expects and to create the organisational foundations to support efficient and effective delivery of services.
  • Council’s Treasury Management Policy targets - The policy outlines financial targets (aligned with the Local Government Finance Authority loan conditions) - Operating Surplus Ratio (to achieve a positive operating surplus ratio by 2027) and Net Financial Liabilities Ratio (achieve a target of less than 100 per cent of total operating revenue by 2027) for 2026/2027. The 2024/2025 budget will ensure that these targets can be achieved.
  • Project delivery – Council has listened to the community throughout consultation on strategies such as the Sport, Recreation and Open Spaces Strategy (SROSS), Shared Path Master Plan, CBD Accessibility Audit and the Mount Gambier 2035 community vision project. Council requires the financial capacity to be able to deliver outcomes highlighted within these strategic plans.

The Council vote recorded in the minutes for the ABP&B and LTFP was split six to one, with Cr Josh Lynagh, Cr Jason Virgo, Cr Frank Morello, Cr Max Bruins, Cr Paul Jenner and Cr Sonya Mezinec voting in favour of the items, and Cr Kate Amoroso voting against the items. Cr Mark Lovett was an apology for the meeting.

Each Councillor was given an opportunity to speak to their decision on the floor of Council. Councillor Max Bruins asked the community to try to understand the considered balancing act Council undertakes as part of the process.

“The challenge in preparing the budget each year is that no matter the outcome, no matter the quantum of the rate rise, the feedback received is almost always negative and that takes its toll. Nobody takes enjoyment from increasing rates, but we have a responsibility to the broader community as a whole to manage the assets, infrastructure, services and planned growth of the city in a considered and fiscally responsible way,” Cr Bruins said.

“The reality of the matter is the costs have risen for councils just as they have for ordinary households. But with 230 kilometres of roads to maintain, footpaths to construct and maintain, hectares of parks to maintain and a myriad of other construction, maintenance and service commitments and cost of resources to facilitate this has risen for us, just as costs have risen for ordinary households. We are not immune to economic conditions and have to manage our budget accordingly.”

Councillor Sonya Mezinec indicated that this year’s draft budget process had been the most challenging of all 10 budget deliberations she has been part of during her time as an Elected Member for the city.

“Elected Members were very mindful of the rating decision in the 2023/2024 budget of 6.2 per cent over three years and the community’s potential responses to any proposed change. We did not want to be perceived as ignoring our previous decision or the potential impact of a greater rate increase on our community. Consequently, we worked through and debated many and varied scenarios to explore how we could ensure Council’s long term financial sustainability, maintain service levels and maintenance requirements, meet our financial targets as per the Local Government Finance Authority’s loan agreement and to be able to continue to meet the community’s aspirations through the identified projects,” Cr Mezinec said.

“Our final recommendation regarding rate increases was a tough decision, but a necessary one. We had to respond to current circumstances and future impacts, despite past commitments. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of our duty and our responsibility as Elected Members of the City of Mount Gambier.”

Councillor Jason Virgo highlighted the impact of high inflation, and the challenging economic context Council is currently operating in.

“We’ve reached a point where we must begin to increase rates to safeguard the ability of Council to provide the services that the community needs,” Cr Virgo said.

Councillor Frank Morello encouraged the community to consider the bigger picture, with aspirations for the city to be a vibrant, progressive, sustainable place to live, where people lead fulfilling and meaningful lives.

“Our job as a Council is to make decisions that support our varied population and ensure our city is prosperous for this generation and importantly, the next generation as well. We may differ on priorities or how much we should invest in certain areas, this doesn’t make anyone wrong, and it doesn’t make anyone right, these are just differences of opinions and perspectives,” Cr Morello said.

“Yes, we’ve had to reconsider the 6.2 per cent rate rise we forecasted last year, but circumstances change and therefore our thinking changed, as it should change, as it has to change. It doesn’t make us liars, or cheats, or incompetent buffoons who should be sacked - or worse - we’ve heard it all. It just means we were forced to make a difficult decision that will impact some people, especially those that were already struggling, that’s a sad reality and we are very sorry to hear about that.”

“I also know that if we don’t invest in our services, assets, waste management, parks and gardens, sporting facilities, events, arts, culture, heritage, all those things that define our city, that shape our city, then we risk jeopardising our identity, chipping away at those distinctive things that make us who we are as people and our community and that’s also a high cost. Weighing up personal cost against community benefit, is a challenging no win game that is open to interpretation and debate.”

Councillors Paul Jenner and Josh Lynagh echoed the sentiments of their fellow Elected Members, and highlighted the complexity of the budget process this year.

“A budget is based on what we know at the time, and this year’s process has seen Councillors carefully consider affordability and delivery,” Cr Jenner said.

“Many of us are ratepayers and we don’t want to be putting rates up, but we’re in a situation where it has to be done and rates are still under the regional and state average,” Cr Josh Lynagh said.

The City of Mount Gambier’s average residential rates are historically and currently, significantly lower than the rural state average. Council’s average residential rates were $1,223 in 2023/2024 compared with the $1,725 South Australian Rural average.

Ratepayers experiencing financial hardship can access relief options, including alternative payment plans. Contact the rates office on 08 8721 2561 or email for assistance.

The Waste Service Charge (WSC) which highlights the cost to deliver waste services, will increase from $217.70 per year to $311.00 per year, per property in 2024/2025.

“We heard from our community about the importance of careful waste management and environmental protection, as well as the importance of managing all our assets for the long term. As our community noted, waste continues to be a significant factor in Council’s planning and delivery. The Waste Service Charge has increased after a review of costings for waste recognition, operating and capital costs of construction and capping cells at Caroline Landfill,” Councillor Paul Jenner said.

“Waste is a considerable cost for the entire community and the WSC makes the cost more transparent to the community. Council will continue the conversation with residents around how we all play a role in reducing waste, recycling and reusing things to divert items going to landfill,” CEO Sarah Philpott said.

All Elected Members present at the meeting voted in favour of the Asset Management Plan 2024/2025.

What’s in the 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget?

Operating expenditure by functions

The budget outlines a total spend of $50.3 million in operating expenditure, including:

  • Waste management and disposal,
  • Development assessment and planning services,
  • The Library,
  • Community development and events, and
  • The depreciation of assets and maintenance of infrastructure assets including roads, footpaths, lighting, storm water drainage, street trees, sporting facilities, open space, cemeteries and other Council properties.

Key projects included in the operating budget:

  • CBD activation and events,
  • Internal business systems review,
  • Visitor servicing,
  • Master planning for parks and recreation areas, and
  • Delivery of the Strategic Work Plan.

The $11.4 million capital works program includes maintaining and replacing Council’s existing asset base to invest in long term physical assets, incorporating renewals and investment in new assets or upgrades.

Key projects included in the capital budget:

  • Renewal of Frew Park amenities,
  • Civic Centre lift replacement,
  • Railway Lands nature play area construction,
  • Various road and footpath works, and
  • Renewal and upgrade of Council’s plant and machinery.

Council also plans to deliver on some of the aspirational work outlined in the community’s vision for Mount Gambier 2035.

View the 2024/2025 Annual Business Plan and Budget.

Media contact: Media and Communications Coordinator Sharny McLean on 0413 798 327 or