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Balancing the books amid cost of living challenges

Thursday 15 February 2024

Cost of living – or ‘cozzie livs’ - is the phrase on the nation’s collective lips at the moment.

It affects most – if not all – aspects of our lives, from the food we put on the table to the fuel we put in our cars.

So, it should come as no surprise that increasing costs affect councils as well.

The limitations of local government revenue streams are coupled with increasing costs and ever higher community expectations around levels of service.

Throw in depreciation, operating costs and maintenance outlays for infrastructure, cost shifting to councils from other levels of government – along with repayment of loans used to fund large construction projects - and you have an unsustainable financial situation emerging.

This is also the focus of the upcoming review of council financial models by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which follows their recent review of the rate peg methodology (the limit placed on the annual increase the councils can levy from ratepayers).

It’s evident that we need to be looking at ways to find a sustainable balance between revenue, expenditure and community expectations around the number and levels of services councils provide.

At AlburyCity, we are currently finalising our draft Financial Sustainability Improvement Plan, which, aside from rates revenue, addresses potential improvements to our internal processes to deliver efficiencies in our service delivery, as well as investigating other revenue streams.

An essential part of this is to engage our community in conversations about not only our scope and levels of service, but also the community’s capacity and willingness to pay for those services.

Dialogue also needs to focus on those often-hidden whole-of-life costs of our local and regional infrastructure mentioned above for a growing regional city.

This is a major piece of work that extends far beyond the planned consideration and adoption of the Financial Sustainability Improvement Plan by our Council in late March.

The plan outlines the criteria that AlburyCity needs to meet to achieve a balanced financially sustainable position over the next four years and the actions necessary to achieve them.

We’re in this for the long haul and, together with our Councillors’ and community’s input and support, look forward to meeting these financial challenges head on.

Frank Zaknich
AlburyCity CEO
RAP Champion