Debt still too high for rate base
WHITSUNDAY Regional Council appears to be on track for reducing its debt by $3 million more than expected by the end of the 2014-15 financial year.
Nonetheless, mayor Jennifer Whitney says the remaining level of debt it still “too high for our rate base”.
When the 2014-15 budget was adopted in July last year, Council said it would reduce its debt from $71 million to $65 million by the end of the financial year.
At last week’s meeting to adopt the December budget review it was revealed that the projected debt at June 30, 2015, would now be $62 million - $3 million less than originally forecast.
Cr Whitney said being able to pay the debt down by $9 million this financial year was a great result made possible due to “the difficult decisions we have made as a Council over the past two years including selling surplus assets, further constraining expenditure, keeping a reduced levy and including a moderate rate rise in 2014-15 budget”.
However, she stressed “with the debt level we’ve still got, we’re unable to borrow”.
The next ‘ big ticket’ item on Council’s expenditure list is the Bowen Sewerage Treatment Plant, which has a projected price tag of between $30-50 million.
Cr Whitney said Bowen was in “desperate need” of this facility being fixed.
“And that’s something that will come on the radar within the next five years.”
“The community’s got to understand we are still being monitored weekly by QTC (Queensland Treasury) and one of the things we’re awaiting from the government is the outcome of our credit review,” she said.
“Once we have that we’ll take it to Council and show the community where we’re sitting.”
Cr Whitney said even though reducing the debt to $62 million was extremely positive, “we still have a substantial way to go”.
“Council works to operate as efficiently and effectively as it can but to continue to stay within its budget so that if we can achieve any further reductions or savings we do pass those on to the community, because we can’t keep imposing that debt on the community,” she said.