Wayne Bradshaw, Hastings Councillor: Budget Reform
Last Thursday and Friday, the HDC Councillors with the assistance of management were presented with the Draft Budgets for the 2008/9 year.
We as a Council with management’s assistance were expected to:
- Review these Budgets (there are over 100 Cost Centres within Council),
- Analyse and Prioritise the spending,
- Find potential savings.
- And then agree on the Final Rating requirement/increase that would be presented to the ratepayers in the Draft 2008/9 Annual Plan for their consultation.
After an intense two days a Rate Increase of 5.4% was agreed upon; this wasn’t too bad after having started at a potential 8.4 %.
My personal target was 4.0 %.
As a new Councillor, I found this process very interesting.
Here we were as Councillors, expected over a two day period to make decisions about the Council’s Finances for the 2008/9 year and beyond.
Let’s put this in context. The Hastings District Council is a business that has:
- Annual Turnover of over $ 80 m.( rates included )
- Total Rates Levied of $ 53 m.
- Staff of over 350.
- Annual Payroll of over $ 20m.
- Debt of $ 88m @ 30/6/08
- Budgeted Debt to rise to $ 108m by 30/6/09.
There must be a BETTER WAY to ensure that the Ratepayers get the best for their dollar.
I believe that the Councillors need to work more closely with the new CEO and management on understanding the requirements, the level of service desired and cost implications for the ratepayers. This could be achieved by regularly consulting with the ratepayers, transparent and understandable reporting, and the formation of an internal working party comprising of the CEO, specific managers and some Councillors.
This working party would be charged with working through each area of the Council ensuring best practice and most effective and efficient operational methods. This would ensure that a fuller understanding and a more ratepayer driven and cost effective operation is achieved.
The Council must recognize our ratepayers’ ability to pay, given such constraints as:
- Fixed Incomes like Superannuation
- Climate Conditions, like Drought,
- Economic Conditions, like High Dollar and Interest Rates.
Over the past several years the Council has expanded its size and activities and carried out significant Project Development. After such periods, it is important that time is allowed for consolidation, and to ensure that all systems are being operated efficiently and for the best benefit of the owners, the ratepayers.
Your thoughts would be most appreciated.