Council workers met outside the Gladstone Regional Council chambers for a combined unions meeting.
Council workers met outside the Gladstone Regional Council chambers for a combined unions meeting.

Insight into Gladstone Council’s $66m wages bill

ONE THIRD or $66 million of Gladstone Regional Council’s $201.7m operating expenditure for 2019-2020 was paid out in wages, its annual report has revealed.

The annual report, adopted unanimously at last week’s general council meeting, showed operating costs of $201.7 million increased compared to 2018-2019 by $10.5 million, or six per cent.

Meanwhile, operating revenue was $199 million, resulting in a operational loss of $2.7 million.

This was primarily due to a 14 per cent increase in wages or employee benefits, and a four per cent jump in materials and services costs.

Materials and services accounted for council’s biggest operational expense last financial year, totalling $85.1 million, or 42 per cent of the total budget.

The new Gladstone Regional Council (left to right) Glenn Churchill, Chris Cameron, Natalia Muzkat, Chris Trevor, Mayor Matt Burnett, Rick Hansen, Deputy Mayor Kahn Goodluck, Desley O'Grady and Darryl Branthwaite at the declaration, April 14, 2020.
The new Gladstone Regional Council (left to right) Glenn Churchill, Chris Cameron, Natalia Muzkat, Chris Trevor, Mayor Matt Burnett, Rick Hansen, Deputy Mayor Kahn Goodluck, Desley O'Grady and Darryl Branthwaite at the declaration, April 14, 2020.

“The largest individual items were $21.0m for contractors performing works on behalf of council and bulk water purchases at $18.1m,” the annual report stated.

“Together these two line items accounted for 46 per cent of the materials and services expenditure for the year.

“Other costs included in materials and services are payments to suppliers for the delivery of councils vast range of services and projects to the community including roads, parks, water, sewerage, footpaths, bikeways, libraries, pools, airport, community halls and town planning.

“It also includes payments for bitumen materials, gravel, utilities, fuel and other operational costs.”

Employee benefits ranked second in council’s expenditure at 33 per cent, or $66 million.

“This includes employee salaries and wages, superannuation, leave entitlements and councillor

remuneration,” the annual report revealed.

A search reveals council employs “650 plus” staff.

At last week’s council meeting, general manager Finance Governance and Risk, Mark Holmes, said he would be monitoring 2020-2021 wage expenditure, as it was right on the budgeted amount.

This, he explained, was due to the council budgeting for a more than seven per cent employee vacancy rate, when the actual figure was about four per cent.

Gladstone Regional Council general manager of finance, governance and risk, Mark Holmes.
Gladstone Regional Council general manager of finance, governance and risk, Mark Holmes.

“COVID-19 impacted the cost of employee benefits with increased leave entitlements banked due to travel restrictions and less capitalised labour due to delays in the capital works program.”

Depreciation expenses made up 22 per cent of operating costs, or $43.5 million.

“While depreciation does not represent cash spent, it recognises the value of council’s assets

‘consumed’ during the period,” the annual report stated.

“This depreciation charge shows that the community consumed approximately 2 per cent of the asset base over the period.”

While the rest of the operational expenditure, three per cent was finance costs, coming in at $7 million.

“As council continues to pay down its debts, it is anticipated that finance costs will continue to decrease,” the annual report said.

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