GAWLER Council has had to water down a long-term financial target of achieving surpluses every year, because of looming deficits.
Elected members, at their meeting last week, agreed to revise council’s targeted operating surplus ratio, in its Treasury Management Policy, which sets the goal of how much of a surplus it needs to achieve every year.
That target previously held council to achieving surpluses of between 0-10 per cent of its overall budget, on an annual basis.
However, with council’s 2017/18 budget forecasting it will have to adopt deficit budgets for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 financial years – due to a one-off, $2.4 million reimbursement to the State Government for the Gawler East link road construction – it has had to revise the policy to make sure it is able to comply with it.
Councillors adopted an Audit Committee recommendation to revise the surplus policy, to tie it to a rolling five-year average rather than a set annual target, so it can compensate any given deficit by achieving surpluses in other years.
Councillor Adrian Shackley said this proposal was much more acceptable.
“Well, it’s not a very sensible idea to be in contradiction to your policy just because we have to go into deficit on one occasion,” he said.
Elected members were also told that open-space management cost estimates will need to be adjusted in the Long Term Financial Plan, moving forward, as council staff are still grappling with the extent of those costs.
Council’s open-space management costs are expected to skyrocket as the volume of parks and reserves council needs to take ownership of is set to more than double over the next two financial years, due to recent residential growth.