Shire Draft Budget for 2020/21
Shire CEO Comment
COVID-19 has brought with it some good and bad scenarios when considering the completion of the Budget for 20/21. The early gloom has been replaced by a bit more positivity, particularly seeing the Federal Government has paid additional Financial Assistance Grants (FAGS) money to all local governments.
Shire finance staff have focussed on the improvement of financial records and this has taken the past two months and we are well placed now to complete Annual Accounts quickly. I am loath to rush the Budget preparation to meet our normal July timeline - when one more month will serve us best, knowing more of the financial effects/impacts of COVID. This will give us one more month to get the Budget set-up correct this year.
It is clear that financially this Shire is very sound - we have Reserve funds from which to drive all major project costs next year, we have cash flow via Main Roads WA and potentially flood damage moneys to invest in roadworks, and as per the Government’s suggestion will be able to hold rates, fees and charges at zero increases in 20/21. It appears pointless to rush to get rate notices out to the public when it can be more carefully planned around COVID impacts and assistance packages. One additional months grace on payment of rates will also be good for many people.
Council has agreed that the Budget adoption in the coming financial year can be held over to the August Council meeting. The Shire has appointed Moore Stephens to undertake accounting in 2020/21 and are planning that implementation to coincide with the commencement of the financial year. Moore Stephens would also be involved in the Budget set-up to assist their understanding of the Shires accounting for the next year.
In planning the draft Budget 20/21, Shire will be conducting Councillors workshop in early August and adoption at the August Council meeting.
The Shire has recently commenced a round of position re-adjustments and staff role changes to manage the payroll structure overall – as we respond to anticipated COVID impacts in terms of business downturn. The majority of impacts address vacant roles and role swaps – and I thank staff who have assisted in this process. Being flexible and aware allows us to respond to changes before financial impacts are damaging. At this point I am of the view we are well placed to address the uncertain times ahead.
I’ve heard a rumour that the Shire is doing this because we are under financial stress. This is not correct; the financial statements of the Shire are published each month with the Council Agenda. A read of May’s statement (access via this link) will show – a very healthy financial position. Our aim will always be to support those of our community who genuinely seek out our help and assistance. On this note, Council approved a Covid 19 Hardship Policy and community members can seek relief from Shire service charges and rates if suffering financial stress. A link to the policy is here (COVID 19 Hardship Policy)
Chief Executive Officer
Shire of Halls Creek