Balancing an increasingly precarious budget is the elephant in the room at Griffith City Council. A wave of staff redundancies under new general manager Brett Stonestreet and a more than two-fold increase in some fees for new developments are evidence enough council is in belt-tightening mode. Rate-pegging by the state government means adequate maintenance of roads, council buildings and staff costs is in jeopardy.
Brett Stonestreet, Griffith City Council general manager:
“Like many councils, the long-term maintenance capacity of infrastructure is a real pressure point for us. Roads, in particular, are an issue. Council also has literally hundreds of buildings it must maintain, and the older they get, the higher the maintenance bill.
There are also a lot of extra charges passed on to us over and above rate-pegging – things like the RFS levy. We are concerned that we’re not getting our fair share of tax revenue to assist with these costs.
Councillors need to look beyond the populist line and support the real reasons council is making its decisions. The Railway Street block is a good example. The portion of the block we sold was valued at half what we sold it for at a time when council needed the funds for the private hospital, yet some councillors still opposed it.”
There’s no question council’s budget is under as much pressure as any time in its history. Local government is at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to funding and general manager Brett Stonestreet has rightly made some tough decisions.
The next term will see council confronting more of the same. Like a stretched household budget, council must narrow its focus to its core duties.
As Cr Simon Croce told The Area News recently: “The people I talk to never say we need another liason officer or cultural officer, they’re asking us to fix and grade their roads”.
Residents want the three Rs – roads, rates, rubbish. The new council could do with a number of councillors with business and management experience.