SLICING THE PIE: A chart outlining the expected origin of money for the SRC’s 2020/21 budget.
SLICING THE PIE: A chart outlining the expected origin of money for the SRC’s 2020/21 budget.

Council confirms deficit budget for new financial year

SOMERSET Regional Council has come up almost $1 million short in its budget this year, as revealed in its budget meeting this week.

The council’s total operating revenue for the 2019/20 financial year came to $39,582,491, while operating expenditure climbed to $40,526,824, for a deficit of $944,333.

It follows a smaller deficit in the 2018/19 financial year, which had a total income of $35,968,418 compared to costs totalling $36,268,045, for a shortfall of $299,627.

The council came out ahead the year before, with $34,283,600 in revenue versus $34,227,024 in costs, giving a surplus of $56,576.

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In all three past years, the category of labour, plant and materials, and councillor remuneration costs have made up the vast majority of expenses.

The trend seems set to continue, with the council’s plan for the 2020/21 budget allocating almost one third of funding towards rural road maintenance alone.

A chart outlining the planned distribution of money for the SRC's 2020/21 budget.
A chart outlining the planned distribution of money for the SRC's 2020/21 budget.

Mayor Graeme Lehmann said it had been the most difficult budget the council had ever delivered.

“Councillors have been guided by the need to keep Somerset moving economically,” he said.

“Our 2021 budget incorporates more than $30 million in capital expenditure. To put this into context, our entire annual rate revenue is just $23 million.”

Bushfires, floods and the coronavirus lockdowns have all taken their toll on the region, with the rebates and other financial support measures implemented by the council all reducing profits for the period.

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Despite the losses, the council has chosen to make just a one per cent increase to what are already the cheapest council rates in southeast Queensland.

“Like the budgets of other governments at present, this is a deficit budget, but it is the right budget for 2020,” Cr Lehmann said.

“We can afford to do this in the short term, and we can return to better times by building infrastructure that our community needs.”

More stories by Nathan Greaves.