City reassures public over ‘sound’ budget

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times

City of Busselton staff have moved to reassure residents of the City’s “financially sound” decision to apply for $15 million of loans after questions regarding its financial position arose during last week’s Bay to Bay Action Group electors-style meeting.

Several residents queried Mayor Grant Henley regarding the management of roads and the City’s choice to operate at a “break-even budget”, suggesting money could be better spent elsewhere than the proposed performing arts centre.

Busselton resident and former accountant Brian O’Connor said the City should run its books similarly to a public company and called for an independent audit report.

“Shareholders in public companies rely on the independent audit report,” he said.

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“An audit opinion of this type would result in significant consequences for the board unless a clear plan to rectify matters was outlined.

“Hiding the audit report at the back of the annual financial statements, a 70-odd page document, gives the impression of a lack of transparency, whether intended or not.”

The City of Busselton earned $52.76m in rates last year and puts aside 7 per cent, about $3.5m, towards road management. Councillors voted unanimously on Wednesday night to bring forward works on nine roads, including Ludlow Hithergreen Road, Bussell Highway, the Peel and Queen Street roundabout, Gale Road, Yonngarillup Road, Wonnerup South Road, Georgette Street, Hakea Way, and Capel Tutunup Road.

The City’s 2020 budget shows an opening balance of $59.9m in cash reserve funds, with most of these funds allocated to specific projects or planned upgrades of existing infrastructure.

City of Busselton director of finance and corporate services Tony Nottle said the second motion at the Bay to Bay Action Group’s meeting to ban City borrowing was based on a false claim.

“There are no financial standards set out by the Local Government Audit Regulations 1996,” he said. “Indeed, there are no financial ratio standards in any current local government legislation.

“It is irresponsible to make such a false claim as it suggests that the City is not complying with the law. That is simply not the case.”

The City plans to borrow $15m to build the Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre which is estimated to cost $28.5m.

Its rates income is expected to grow over 10 years as its population grows.

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