BUDGET 2017: Council debt slashed, on track for $106M goal
DREAMS of a debt of just $30 million had councillors excited and proud at today's budget meeting.
The Gladstone Regional Council is chipping away at its $160 million debt, reducing it by $30 million since the new council was sworn in mid-2016.
RELATED | Budget 2017
The council's chief financial officer Mark Holmes said they were on track to slashing debt by another $30 million within the next three years, bringing it back to $106.1 million.
Mr Holmes said it was then on track to reduce the debt to $31.4 million within the next 10 years.
The council's debt was the only issue that sparked a discussion during yesterday's budget meeting, with decisions on rates, sewerage and roads handed down without questions from councillors.
But when the once-$160 million topic was brought up, the spotlight was on Mr Holmes as councillors quizzed him about the debt.
Cr Cindi Bush asked how much the debt had decreased since taking office after last year's April election.
Mr Holmes said since mid-2016 the council debt had reduced from around $160 million to $130 million.
Deputy mayor Chris Trevor highlighted the cost cutting had been achieved without slashing the council's services.
"Any argument that we're reducing services to reduce our debt is a myth," Cr Trevor said.
Mayor Matt Burnett said the council had reduced its debt through lump-sum payments and cost-cutting measures.
Cr Burnett said the debt reduction trend would continue under the council's new chief executive officer Roslyn Baker.
"Today we've adopted the budget and tomorrow we'll start on next year's budget to figure out how we can reduce expenses even further," he said.
"We also have our new CEO starting on August 7 and one of the first things she'll be doing is working with our finance team to figure out how we can do things better."
Mr Burnett highlighted a portion of the debt on the council's books was from major industries still paying back council loans.
"Some of the debt is owed by QAL (Queensland Alumina Ltd) and others is owed by the LNG providers for sewerage network systems that are connected to their facilities," Cr Burnett said.
"It's on council books so it looks like council debt, but they are separate."
Mr Burnett said astro-turfing median strips along Goondoon St was one way the council had saved money.
"We've been doing little things to reduce maintenance and labour costs," Cr Burnett said.