City set for healthy budget surplus

City of Newcastle will in 2019-20 deliver a sixth consecutive budget surplus, as documented in its draft budget presented to the public today.

Forecasting a $11.951 million budget surplus with a strong focus on projects delivering environmental outcomes, the $297 million 2019-20 budget will be published online today before Councillors vote to place it on public exhibition on Tuesday 16 April.

Significantly, the budget is the first time in around a decade that the City will not rely on its reserve funds to keep the budget in surplus.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the 2019-20 budget was further evidence that the Council was delivering on its responsibilities to manage the city’s economic and environmental future.

“City of Newcastle is focused on continuing the revitalisation of our wonderful city, while focusing strongly on environmental sustainability,” the Lord Mayor said.

“Significantly, more than 40 per cent of our works budget is committed to environmental initiatives, including new waste facilities, improved recreational parks and continued coastal revitalisation.”

“Our Budget 2019-20 investment includes $32 million towards the expansion of Summerhill Waste Facility to allow for an increase in the amount of commercial waste we accept and generate an income from.

“Other environmental budget highlights include our $12.35 million Organics Recycling Facility and a $6 million Recycling Recovery Centre. Each will allow the City to generate a new income stream from the sale of organic and other recycled materials. The organics facility will be completed with no reduction in existing collection services.

“Around $81 million is forecast to be spent on delivering our 2019-20 Works Program, with the City set to deliver its single largest investment ever in environmental sustainability projects and programs.

Other highlights of the City’s draft budget include:

  • $2.5 million towards graduate, apprentice and trainee recruitment
  • $13.8 million on-road infrastructure projects
  • $10.8 million toward Newcastle Library services and upgrades
  • $14.8 million on our cultural facilities ($2.3 million on Newcastle Art Gallery, $2.3 million on Newcastle Museum, $8 million on Civic Theatre).
  • $21.6 million on City Parks and Recreation ($20 million in services and $1.6 million in capital investment)
  • $2 million on Smart City projects
  • $5 million towards replacing outdated fleet
  • $1.5 million towards improving development application processing

CEO Jeremy Bath said the 2019-20 draft budget was a strong indicator of the City’s sound financial position.

“Financial sustainability is one of the foundations of good government and this budget will guide our revenue and expenditure balance over the next 12 months and beyond to help maintain our financial position,” Mr Bath said.

“The income and spending outlined within it will allow us to deliver the many essential services expected of local government as well as help us deliver improvements in many areas of business.

“Delivering a $12 million surplus, which equates to 3.9 per cent of our forecast income of $309 million, ensures that we have the required financial contingency at hand to address unforeseen events such as natural disasters, or the funds to seize opportunities to host major events when they unexpectedly arise.”

Mr Bath credited his team of staff in delivering a budget that meets 100 per cent of the financial key performance ratios set by the NSW Audit Office during a significant period of internal change for the City.

“It’s due to the talented team of people we have appointed to senior leadership roles, and the staff working under them, that our City is in its strongest financial position in decades,” Mr Bath said.

“With the recruitment of our new leadership team now almost complete, we have a group of leaders who possess the required skillsets and corporate-needs approach to decision-making required to advance the revitalisation of the city.

“A vital project funded through this budget will also be the relocation for 425 of our administration staff to 12 Stewart Avenue in the City’s West End. Scheduled for the end of October, it will mark one of the most significant changes in our organisation’s history.

“The move provides City of Newcastle with a chance to re-invent the way its staff work by uniting those who previously worked across three sites under one roof. This will significantly improve communication, collaboration and interaction which in turn will deliver better projects and services for the community,” Mr Bath said.

The City’s 2019-20 draft budget will be available to view in full on the City’s website here, later today.

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