Gladstone Council records $2.7m operating deficit

GLADSTONE Regional Council has recorded a $2.7m operating deficit last financial year, citing the “disruption of COVID-19” as a contributing factor.

The council adopted its 2019/2020 annual report at a general meeting last week where its financial position was revealed.

The report showed an operating deficit of $2.7 million, which was a stark contrast to the operating surplus of $10.2 million recorded in 2018/19.

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Contributing to the council’s operating deficit in 2019/20 was its decision to impose an effective freezing of interest on outstanding rates and charges in March.

This decision was made in part due to COVID-19’s impact on the Gladstone region, which Mayor Matt Burnett said was evident earlier this year.

“COVID-19 has disrupted everyone at some level,” Cr Burnett said.
“But as political, community and medical leaders stressed, we all must work together to defeat this ongoing threat, until a safe vaccine is available.”

Despite the rates freeze, a total of $150.4 million in rates and utility charges was received during the 2019/20 financial year, which made up 75 per cent of the council’s revenue during the period.

That total represented a $3.2 million increase in rates and fees received compared to 2018/19.

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Last financial year, Gladstone Regional Council approved more than $26m to fund 46 different projects.

Despite the operating deficit, the council did not borrow money to fund any of its 2019/20 capital works program.

However, expenditure on capital works decreased during 2019/20 to $44.6 million from $51.9 million in the 2018/19 financial year.

Additionally, the council received grants and subsidies of $17.9 million from the state and federal governments in 2019/20.

GRC CEO Leisa Dowling said in the year ahead, the council would need “energy and determination” as an organisation, as individuals and as a regional community.

“This is in order to recover after an unrelenting year,” Ms Dowling said.

“It is a challenge we need to meet for future generations.”