Mid Murray Council must find $45,000 in savings

Photo: File.
Photo: File.

Mid Murray Council's number-crunchers still have work to do, despite councillors' approval of a 2019-20 budget that was revised to accomodate community concerns.

Property rates will go up by 2.9 per cent in the district, down from the 3.6pc originally planned, costing the council $92,000 in revenue.

The state government's solid waste levy, announced after the council budget was drafted, will cost another $45,000; and the council is projected to spend an extra $82,000 on water as prices rise due to low allocations to River Murray entitlement holders.

To compensate, the council has scrimped and saved on the margins of its budget, reducing the amount it will spend on community grants and events and rescheduling infrastructure upgrades.

Higher-than-expected growth in property values will also help prop up the budget, at ratepayers' cost.

However, staff are yet to identify where they will cut another $45,000 worth of operating expenses during the year.

Chief executive officer Ben Scales suggested no stone would be left unturned in the council's quest for long-term sustainability.

"Council is committed to reviewing all areas of its business over the coming year to find further efficiencies in our services and operations," he said.

"But we want to reassure people that we will work to minimise the impact of any budget savings on the community."

Mayor Dave Burgess said both councillors and staff were committed to operating as efficiently as possible.

"Council has worked hard to identify areas in which we can secure savings or efficiencies to reduce costs in order to accommodate this reduced rate increase and absorb the added expense of the state government's solid waste levy," he said.

"It is always a challenge to balance the needs and aspirations of the community with the increasing cost pressures placed on council, but we believe we have developed a budget that is responsive to ratepayers' expectations and financially sustainable."

Mr Burgess had previously described the solid waste levy, announced by the state government on June 18, as a "cash grab" and "incredibly frustrating".

Councils were previously required to pay a fee of $51.50 per tonne of waste they sent to landfill; that figure was increased to $55 on July 1, and will rise to $70 on January 1.