Gladstone council monitoring $27.1m in outstanding rates
GLADSTONE Regional Council says it is in a better position than last year to recover a massive $27.1 million in outstanding rates, despite the crushing financial impact of COVID.
Councillors held their bimonthly general meeting on Tuesday, with the monthly financial statement the first item on the agenda.
Council officers recommended the report, showing recurrent revenue of $144.3 million (76.2 per-cent of a budgeted $189.3 million), be adopted.
The meeting heard the forecast budget for the 2020-21 financial year was being reviewed and would be completed by the end of November.
Council’s biggest income stream, net rates and utility charges, saw $11.9 million in unpaid rates at the end of last financial year, councillors were told.
Despite council’s general manager of Finance Governance and Risk, Mark Holmes, not showing concern for the amount of outstanding rates, Cr Chris Trevor said he was concerned by reports in the Gladstone Observer .
“I woke up to the headlines in the Gladstone Observer this morning screaming at me saying that we were in debt to the tune of $27.1 million through outstanding rates,” Cr Trevor said.
“Can we assure the public that we are not at fiscal risk and everything is under control please, because that headline would have been frightening to many, let alone a councillor.
“My reading of all of the report, as opposed to extracting part of it, is that we are in an extremely strong position financially and nothing is out of the norm in relation to our balance sheet.”
Mr Holmes told the meeting council was in a better financial position with outstanding rates than at the same time last financial year.
“We are at 15.2 per cent, the same time last year we were at 16.9,” he said.
“So for this time of the year, we are actually more favourable than we were at this time in the previous year.”
Of the $27.1 million outstanding, the meeting heard 82.2 per cent was owed by residents and 17.8 per cent by commercial or industrial ratepayers.
Currently $3.64 million of outstanding rates are under payment plans from 1262 ratepayers, an increase of 200 ratepayers since September.
“While it looks favourable on the face of it, I would expect that over the course of the year that outstanding rates to trend slightly higher than the previous year,” Mr Holmes said.
“It is normal for us to recover that during the period, but with that trend and current economic conditions, its something that we will be monitoring closely.”
Mr Holmes said council was starting to follow up outstanding rates, given the discount period in 2020-21 was 60 days shorter than last year.
“Also there are many ratepayers who aren’t on formal payments arrangements and just pay their rates through a monthly direct debit,” he said.
“So as those payments are made throughout the financial year we will see that outstanding rates figure decline.
“Where we ended up at 30 June 2020 was $11.9 million, so about 7 per cent of our general rate levy was outstanding, so the figure I’m looking to see is how we end up compared to the previous financial year.
“We are travelling ok.”
The motion to adopt council’s financial report was moved by Cr Natalia Muscat, seconded by Cr Trevor and adopted unanimously.
Where Ratepayers Debt (million)
Agnes Water 474 $2.9m
West Gladstone 364 $1.52m
Clinton 378 $1.51m
New Auckland 351 $1.41m
Boyne Island 310 $1.4m
Calliope 359 $1.35m
Tannum Sands 282 $1.3m
South Gladstone 284 $1.2m
Gladstone 250 $0.95m
Glen Eden 212 $0.85m