Council navigates turbulent financial impact of Covid-19

Gosford's Council Chambers.

Central Coast Council expects to be in deficit by the end of the financial year by $41.6M with lost revenues and ongoing costs and impacts due to Covid events growing the deficit from an earlier estimate of $24m.

Once capital grants and contributions are included however, the proposed operating deficit is forecast to be $0.1M.

Land acquisition for both the Gosford Cultural Precinct and Wadalba Sporting Fields and work on the Mardi to Warnervale water main ahead of schedule meant Council has spent an additional $19.2M in capital works that wasn’t in this year’s budget.

The budget for the design and construction of a carpark at 10 Racecourse Rd, West Gosford, has doubled.

The original estimate was $400,000 but the Q3 financial statements show in the budget estimates it will need another $395,000.

“The original budget provided to Economic Development was underestimated,” the report says and marks the project status as H meaning the project has been deferred or cancelled.

A tender worth more than $6M was awarded to Land and Maritime Ocean Engineering Pty Ltd for renovating Terrigal Rock Pool.

Construction of the Terrigal Lagoon Walking track has been delayed due to issues with the environmental assessment and the project will now impact the 2021 budget.

Asset protection zones and fire trail establishment and upgrades to standard in all wards have had their budget allocations increased by about a third due to an increase in project scope and an increase in resources needed to deliver.

Road reconstruction work on part of Del Monte Close, Copacabana was going to cost Council $194,000 but that money will now come from a Federal Government grant.

A region-wide water main flow meter installation to manage leakages has been put on hold to allow higher priority projects to go ahead, with $55,000 taken out of the budget.

Woy Woy Town Centre wharf renewal project has been delayed due to Crown Land ownership issues.

Woy Woy Tip’s Garden Organics Transfer Facility has virtually halved in cost from $850,000 to $429,000 due to approved amendments to the site’s environmental protection licence which allowed the scope of the project to be reduced.

The council will get a $1.1M reprieve from the State Government by not having to pay the increase in the emergency services levy that was to be paid next year.

Water and sewerage costs went up by a net total of $7.5M due to floods and water main breakages.

Council forecast holiday parks and camping ground revenue would drop by $2.4M and pools and leisure centres income to drop by $1.8M.

Council considered the biggest decrease in cash receipts will be in the fourth quarter which ends at the end of this month.

A total of 36 projects have been delayed due to the impact of COVID-19.

By the end of the financial year, the capital works program is expected to decrease by $21.2 million, reducing the full year program from $257.4 million to $236.2 million.

The capital works budget includes $8.3M raised in the Wyong area by the special rate variation.

During debate to adopt the financial report, Cr Greg Best asked about the increase in staff costs and was told by the CEO Gary Murphy that the executive team was meeting with an external consultant the following Thursday to discuss staffing.

Cr Best said he was concerned the growing deficit could be a “Covid Cover-up” [sic].

Cr Kyle MacGregor said the council was “extremely reliant on grants”.

He said there was a clear misunderstanding of amalgamation costs and restructuring prior to the amalgamation of the two former councils and it was “madness” to think the new council could operate with a surplus in its early years.

Councils are required to prepare Quarterly Budget Review Statements, which present a summary of Council’s financial position at the end of each quarter.

This is the mechanism whereby the community is informed of Council’s progress against its Operational Plan and the budget along with recommended changes and reasons for major variances.

Source:
Item 2.2
Central Coast Council meeting, May 25

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