HEART costs raise concerns

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Email Jackson Lavell-Lee
The rising operating costs of the Margaret River Heart have cast doubt over the estimated cost of running the Busselton Entertainment Arts Cultural Hub
Camera IconThe rising operating costs of the Margaret River Heart have cast doubt over the estimated cost of running the Busselton Entertainment Arts Cultural Hub Credit: supplied

The rising staff costs for the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s HEART development have cast doubt on the City of Busselton’s estimated staff costs at the proposed Busselton Entertainment Arts Cultural Hub.

The City’s “Addendum 1 and Attachments Business Case Busselton Performing Arts and Convention Centre” document, released on July 13, estimates a net loss of $214,356 next financial year, increasing to $1,060,190 in year five of operating.

The same document estimates $309,690 in employment costs in its first year, increasing to $1,354,588 by the 2025-26 financial year.

City of Busselton Mayor Grant Henley previously told the Times the project would cost ratepayers about $20-$30 a year in rate increases. However, this figure has now been revised to about $40.

Last week Margaret River Theatre Group president Jaime Werren said the arts community of Margaret River originally supported the HEART redevelopment but few had seen the steep rise in costs coming.

A recent Shire of Augusta-Margaret River update on the HEART said staff wages made it unfeasible to open on weekends except for major events.

Staff numbers had grown beyond the initial scope for the venue, which is forecast to cost ratepayers about $1.7 million to run in its second financial year since opening.

City of Busselton Action Group president Anne Ryan said the group’s independent accountant had concluded Busselton’s performing arts centre would record an annual loss of $1.1m in the first year. “Based on our accountant’s advice the City’s own financial projections show an annual full-year loss of $1.1m or $47 per rateable property,” she said.

“Any reasonable assessment of the revenue projections would conclude they are very optimistic figures. Annual losses of $2m are far more realistic and equate to $84 per rateable property.

“Debt funding is definitely a further concern because it locks the ratepayers in to this project for the long term.”

In his audit report published last October, the Acting Deputy Auditor-General reported the City’s financial records were below the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ basic standards for the last three years, indicating “severe adverse trends in the financial position of the City.”

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer said all information relating to the project’s business case and revised operating costs were available on the City’s website.

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