Anti-merger group claims Council in debt

Save Our Shire President Lucy Henderson marching with Shooters Farmers and Fishers Party Candidate for Upper Hunter John Preston on Thursday.

The Tumbarumba Save Our Shire group have claimed that the Snowy Valleys Council has planned an almost $1.5 million deficit for the 2017/18 financial year.

However, Administrator Paul Sullivan disputes this claim, saying that it is absolutely not the case. He said that there is a $1.485 million figure in the budget, but that that is the amount of money they are planning to spend from the $5 million merger implementation fund handed to the new Snowy Valleys Council by the state government.

“That’s all it is,” he said.

“As everyone knows we get an implementation fund of five million bucks. That went in the books as income, and that loss is an offset, and it’s drawn from that fund. I’ve spoken to our CFO about it and she confirmed that it’s only an estimate of what they’ll be drawing down from the implementation fund in that financial year.

“The budget itself is fine. It’s rock solid.”

Interim General Manager Kay Whitehead added that the figure was a somewhat odd “anomaly” that occurred because they received the implementation fund in one financial year, and were dipping into it in the next.

“It’s basically because the income is in one year and the expenditure is in the other,” she said.

“It is hard to understand, and you really need to go behind the figures to get a full picture.”

However, Save Our Shire spokesperson Neil Hamilton said they were confident their figure was correct.

“The Save Our Councils Coalition in Sydney has done an analysis of every single merged council in NSW, and they are confident that there is a significant budget deficit in the Snowy Valleys Council,” he said.

“There’s a whole lot of stuff in the budget that raises questions that need answering.

“This council has already had the best part of $10 million in grants, and we were told that there would be a $250,000 surplus every year. That clearly isn’t happening.”

Save Our Shire President Lucy Henderson said that the amalgamation put Tumbarumba ratepayers’ finances at risk.

“Tumbarumba Council was forced to give up its financial security and a planned surplus of hundreds of thousands of dollars of resident’s funds for the future of this new Council,” she said.

“The Berejiklian Government’s big mistake was to ignore the NSW Treasury Corporation’s financial sustainability and benchmarking assessment of “strong” for Tumbarumba’s previous independent Council. Our town was just one of two announced as “strong” in the state (Sydney was number one).

“One hundred and fifty two pre merged councils were assessed. Tumut was 69th. The State Government also ignored the recommendation of our Delegate and the Boundaries Commission not to merge Tumbarumba with Tumut.

“Why did they ignore that advice?”