Crunch time for Lismore council finances

LISMORE Mayor Jenny Dowell believes council's operating deficit of $3.692 million is manageable, but will lead to some tough decisions in the coming year.

Mayor Dowell said council was completing an asset management plan to get an accurate financial picture and early next year would do a 'zero budget', where you start with nothing and then include commitments from previous council decisions and statutory requirements, and then look at discretionary spending.

"We will be re-examining what our community wants us to spend money on, perhaps looking at things to change and things we can no longer do," Mayor Dowell said.

The Goonellabah Sports and Aquatic Centre (GSAC) continues to operate at a loss, losing $461,600 in the 2011-12 financial year, which was $16,500 better than expected, due to improved income.

Mayor Dowell said while swimming pools did not make money, the GSAC gym was proving popular, despite enormous competition in the city.

On Tuesday night the council's End of Term Report (regarding the previous council term) was delivered.

"It was a fair assessment of the last term of council, there were some good things, considering the financial constraints we were under, and it's fair to say Federal Government grants helped us deliver things the community wanted that we didn't have money for," Mayor Dowell said.

The report said the past four years had been a challenge for road infrastructure.

"In our zero budget we will find money for roads, but I don't think we're going to find the total amount of money needed to bring all of our roads up to standard," Mayor Dowell said.

"For that to happen we need enshrined in legislation a share of taxation revenue from State and Federal Governments, but I don't believe our council is alone in that. It's what every council in Australia is calling for."

Council performed well in waste management, diverting 64% of landfill in 2011-12, the highest rate to date.

"Lismore City Council has been a beacon for good practice for our ability to limit what goes into landfill and maximising re-use and recycling resources we retrieve from the waste stream," Mayor Dowell said.

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