Welcome to this week’s editorial, Time to take a look at the BIG picture in Eurobodalla. And the best place to start is probably our Council.
It would have to be the largest employer in the Shire with a wages budget of $39m employing 537 staff (449 permanent and 88 temporary). The General Manager has a remuneration package of $315,000 and the four directors have a combined total remuneration of $948,882.
The trickle on for local business of the $109m annual budget provides a positive stimulus for our local economy. So why are we going backwards?
Council is required to prove that it is Fit For The Future. This is a nice little tag given by the State Government that determines by measure if Council can cover its overheads of maintenance and renewals of stuff they already own and can meet loan repayment obligations. By juggling the books Council have been able to tick the boxes making sure that they only spend money on assets they own and that they streamline those assets via consolidation.
An example of this is to build four regional skateparks instead of every town having a lesser quality facility. The same applied to playgrounds. Toilet blocks are rationalised as are public halls. Even the amount of Public Reserves is pared down with community parks and open space being sold off to feed the Council bottom line.
The problem we have is that the animal that feeds this bottom line, being the ratepayer and resident, doesn’t provide an income at a rate fast enough to keep up with the demands.
Roads are more expensive to fix, water and sewer systems grow old and need replacing , wages increase and what we have is the same population base to feed the animal with rates. Eurobodalla Shire's Household Income is one of the most important indicators of socio-economic status and by comparison with regional NSW we have a larger percentage of our residents earning below the average.
In 2016 was 13,965, of which 6,224 were employed part-time and 6,482 were full time workers with 7.1% unemployment.
So the Council needs an increase in income to feed its ever expanding momentum and the burden it has to maintain and provide public assets. As we want more Council endeavours to build and own less to reduce its overheads. It’s a juggling act that occasionally results in confrontation such as when Council decides to see a park at Pretty Point, or refuses to take on any more marine infrastructure, or reduces a town pool from 50m to 25m and chooses to close a community centre and offer up an ill equipped meeting room in its place.
With our rapidly aging population constrained by below average incomes and the third quarter of economic downturn it is fortunate for the shire that we are enjoying the injection of State funding for major projects to keep the wolf from the door however we need a long term plan that will bring population to the shire and the rates and taxes that follow otherwise the windfalls over the next few years will simply be a brief spike of fortunes. Until next Lei (figures quotes 2016 census)