A message from the Mayor: Council budget suffers major blow
Published on 08 May 2023
Last week, the State Government abolished an ongoing subsidy to NSW councils for the Emergency Service Levy (ESL), leaving Kempsey Shire Council to find an extra $369,000.
This subsidy, in place since 2019, helps cover the emergency service budget for the Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service, and Fire and Rescue NSW. This is not an issue unique to Kempsey Shire Council, as 128 councils across NSW must contribute an extra $77.5 million for the 2023/2024 financial year.
This sudden change is unacceptable and puts an unfair burden on our Council and community.
With less than eight weeks’ notice, as we finalise our annual budget in our Operating Plan, we must make drastic changes. The Operating Plan is currently on public exhibition for community feedback (www.ksc.pub/budget2023). Council staff have worked diligently for the last 12 months to prepare this budget. It is unfair to require them to revisit all their planning.
Unfortunately, some of the changes required by this unexpected cost will have to be made without community input before the June Council meeting, when the final decision must be made.
There is no easy response. We could cut infrastructure projects or services to the community. We could move projects into the next financial year. Without special approval, it is not possible to lift rates above the present state imposed 3.7% rate peg.
It is gobsmacking to realise that 43% of the proposed additional rate income for next year will now be eaten up by this extra cost.
I urge our community to inform yourselves about this unacceptable change and consider writing an opposing letter or email to the Premier or the Treasurer of NSW. It is crucial that our voices are heard, and that we stand together to ensure that our community is not unfairly impacted by this change.
On a more positive note, Councillors recently had the opportunity to tour major infrastructure project sites.
At Willawarrin we inspected the new amenities block at the showground and the new water treatment site which has been pegged out ready for construction. We also crossed two new innovative concrete bridges along Mungay Creek Road, made short stops at the Stuart McIntyre Dam and Kempsey Airport, and visited the Central Kempsey Waste Treatment Plant site.
I would like to thank our Councillors for their attendance and the many staff involved in making this tour so worthwhile.