City of Greater Geraldton aims to get budget back in the black after avoiding financial disaster

Michael RobertsGeraldton Guardian
City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn.
Camera IconCity of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn. Credit: Phoebe Pin/Geraldton Guardian

The City of Greater Geraldton was able to avoid a multi-million-dollar deficit in the 2020-21 financial year, but it wasn’t for all the right reasons.

Releasing its annual report, the City revealed it saved $790,000 in employment expenses last financial year because it couldn’t fill a number of vacant positions.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said he hoped it would be easier to recruit workers once WA’s border restrictions are lifted in February, but wasn’t counting his chickens just yet.

“The City isn’t different to any other business and most businesses that I speak to can’t get enough staff,” he said.

“Once the borders open I think there will be a race for employees across the country, particularly in WA.

“We will just be one local government of 138 trying to recruit.

“But we still don’t know what recruitment will look like once the borders will fall.”

Mr Van Styn said staff shortages could be exacerbated by employees getting sick from the rapidly spreading Omicron variant — stretching City services to the limits.

“We see that already impacting supply chains for supermarkets,” he said.

Facing a projected $5.8 million deficit for 2020-21, Geraldton ended the financial year $877,000 in the red.

The annual report showed 16 City staff were paid more than $130,000 over those 12 months. Four City staff had annual salaries above $200,000.

Mr Van Styn said he was keen to see the City’s budget return to surplus in 2021-22 so it could deal with further emergency or disaster.

“We don’t want to be borrowing any money and we don’t predict to be borrowing any money,” he said.

“We have a debt level we are comfortable with and can remove in 5-6 years.

“Maintain a balanced budget means we can keep rates low and make sure we can replace assets. We want to fund new projects by a combination of grants and surplus revenue. “

Speaking on rates, Mr Van Styn said preliminary talks had already started on how the City would approach rates for the 2022-23 financial year.

He promised homeowners he wouldn’t increase rates based on rising rental values.

“If the rentals go up we will leave the rate in the dollar the same,” he said.

“We don’t do that under my watch.”

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