Murray Bridge council budget for 2017-18

Number cruncher: Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman puts the finishing touches on a memo about the Murray Bridge council's 2017-18 annual business plan. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Number cruncher: Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman puts the finishing touches on a memo about the Murray Bridge council's 2017-18 annual business plan. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Murray Bridge's councillors have passed a budget most described as a win for the community.

The annual increase in property rates will be smaller than in previous years, and more money will be spent on roads and footpaths.

The only councillors to speak against the council's financial plan for 2017-18 were Clem Schubert and Theo Weinmann, who said he believed the council was being greedy.

"The country's got low wage growth; water and electricity prices are going through the roof; business confidence is very low," Cr Weinmann said.

"I think we're taking too much out of the community.

"There's people tonight sitting in this town without electricity – they can't pay it.

"We've got to think of them, too."

Cr Andrew Baltensperger agreed that people were doing it tough, but noted the council was finally getting hrough a backlog of footpath work that had needed to be done for years.

Cr Fred Toogood's praise glowed brighter still.

"We've reduced rates (growth) to 2.5 per cent, that's a great result on its own; Cr Baltensperger just mentioned how much we're spending on footpaths, that's a great credit; we're spending $6 million maintaining and improving our assets," he said.

"You can't reduce rates down to a very low level and still make improvements to your city."

Rather than propping up the council's bank balance, Mayor Brenton Lewis said, Murray Bridge's rapid growth was leading to a higher and higher demand for facilities and services.

Cr Tyson Matthews also objected to Cr Weinmann's remarks.

"When we need a whack, I'll cop it, but when we've got a good story to tell, let's not shoot ourselves in the foot," he said.

The council will collect $23.6 million worth of property rates in 2017-18, and receive $11 million worth of income from other sources.

It will spend $36.1 million on services and major projects, which will include road and footpath improvements, new playgrounds and the ongoing redevelopment of the city's riverfront.

Record surplus, one year early

The council will also record what may be the largest surplus in its history in 2016-17, but only due to an accounting quirk.

The federal government recently notified the council it would pay $1.8 million worth of grants in June instead of the second half of the year.

That shifted the income from next financial year into this one.

Although the council will still receive the same amount of money over the two years - in fact, it will benefit slightly by earning extra interest - the date change dashed councillors' hopes of recording a surplus in 2017-18.

Chief executive officer Michael Sedgman predicted the council would end up with a $1.5 million deficit in 12 months' time, offset by a surprise $3.2 million surplus on June 30 of this year.

"If people look at the '17-18 budget in isolation, they'll say we're budgeting for a deficit," he said.

"But it's only because of a very strong surplus in this financial year."

He hoped the public would appreciate that the situation had changed for reasons beyond the council's control, reasons he could not explain.

"I struggle to understand why a level of government would feel the need to rid itself of cash," he said.

"I presume there's a political driver.

"But we'll take it, gratefully."

It is the second time in three years the federal government has decided at the last minute to pay out the grant funding in advance.


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