Council trims operational spending

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    Invercargill city chief executive Clare Hadley will lead a cost-cutting exercise after councillors asked staff to trim $500,000 from its operational budget in 2018-19. Photo: Petrina Wright

    COUNCILLORS have asked Invercargill City Council staff to find $500,000 in savings across the organisation to ease the rates hike in 2018-19.

    While drafting the council’s Long-Term Plan late last year, councillors requested staff cut $500,000 in operational spending for the 2018-19 year.

    Chief executive Clare Hadley, who took up the role in March, said careful budgeting wasn’t anything new, but this was the first time the council had set a formal cost-cutting target to be achieved council-wide.

    “The figure of $500,000 was chosen because it was felt it was a meaningful saving for ratepayers, as it represents 1% of rates,” Mrs Hadley said.

    Just where that $500,000 will be trimmed has yet to be decided, but it is not expected to mean job losses.

    “The figure does not include staff budgets; it is to identify savings in other operational costs.”

    Mrs Hadley is leading the cost-cutting exercise with the finance team working with directors and managers of each department to identify areas where operational savings can be made.

    The $500,000 savings have been factored into the 4.91% rates increase scheduled for 2018-19.

    A projected rates increase of 3.98% was set for 2018-19, but that was bumped up to 4.91% after councillors made tweaks to the 2018-2028 Long-Term Plan document.

    It included a one-off grant increase of $300,000 to ILT Stadium Southland in 2018-19, which equated to .6% of the increase. Also, $200,000 was added to 2018-19 costs to help get a temporary museum presence in Invercargill with the Southland Museum & Art Gallery now closed.

    The rates increase equates to an extra $2.02 per week for homeowners with a property with a rateable value of $215,000.

    Cr Ian Pottinger eluded to the tightening of the belt, in terms of operational expenses, at the initial long-term council meeting when Cr Toni Biddle queried whether the council could afford to take on all the projects outlined in the Long-Term Plan.

    Included in those new projects are an arts and creativity centre, redeveloped museum and an additional pool at Splash Palace.

    “I’m quite confident when we start the budgets for this coming year, for each department and every department we will see significant savings, both through the way we will be approaching what will be put away to reserves, so we are not over-rating, but also the operational savings this council can make,” Cr Pottinger said.

    “I believe there is room to move. Words like ‘efficient’ and ‘lean’ are a bit cheesy, but I’m confident this council can do things a lot better.”

    Invercargill Ratepayers Advocacy Group spokesman Nobby Clark felt there was even more room for the council to cut expenditure to lessen the burden on ratepayers.

    He was disappointed with the 4.91% rates agreed to by councillors.

    Cr Biddle said on Tuesday at the meeting which confirmed the rates increase, she was proud as a first-term councillor with what had been achieved by the council.

    “We’ve got some exciting and incredible projects moving forward, and if you look at what we are getting in the next six to 10 years… I think we should celebrate this.”

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