RVC says no rate rise

Richmond Valley Council has reviewed the 2009/10 budget for the first quarter but despite finding savings of $65,000 finance manager James Sprickley is urging caution.

Council’s revised estimate as of September 30 is for a deficit in working funds for $204,300, which Mr Sprickley said in the November business paper was satisfactory.

However he also said the capital works budget had grown to a total of $39,210,500, the largest in the history of Richmond Valley Council.

“Council sometimes goes and does a project which it expects a return from and bankrolls it using a reserve which is reimbursed later on, but we’re coming to a situation where we may not be able to do that,” Mr Sprickley said.

Mr Sprickley said the situation was partly due to the global financial crisis.

“I’m erring on the side of caution,” he said. “For example, at the moment, Council has got a subdivision on the way out of Casino, on the Lismore road, where we’ve built 15 lots so far. They’ve all been sold. Council bought all the land and has done a lot of the infrastructure for the subdivision, so there’s money coming back in, but it’s difficult for us to go and do the next stage.”

Mr Sprickley said at this stage it was unlikely that there would be further cuts to the budget but, as usual, it would be reviewed after the December quarter.

“It’s a big budget for the Council this year, with $45 million this year in capital works, including the federal government grant for the Evans Head pool of $5million, $2million for the Casino CBD upgrade and $2.7 million for the community centre in Casino. The other thing is restoring flood damage from May 2008, there’s over $5million to spend on that, restoring roads and bridges.”

However, Mr Sprickley said there was no plan to raise rates at this stage.

“It’s difficult times for the Council, but we’re not alone. A lot of other Councils are in the same sort of boat,” he said. “Other councils are considering rate increases but that’s not on the agenda at the moment, I won’t say it never will be, but at this stage it’s not.”

Financial auditors Thomas Noble and Russell gave a qualified audit for Richmond Valley Council at Tuesday’s meeting.

“A lot of other councils also had qualified audits, it’s not unique to Richmond Valley Council,” he said. “Since June 30, the investment market has changed a bit, and the market for CDOs is starting to improve. I’ve had three phone calls from three different brokers about selling them.

“If the economic outlook improves, although home-owners might not like it, if interest rates continue to go up, it’s good for us in terms for investments,” Mr Sprickley said.

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