15 Jun, 2014

City Council set to consider election year budget

With the completion of community consultation around City of Adelaide’s draft 2014-15 Business Plan and Budget, Councillors are set to consider the final plan and budget at this Tuesday night’s Finance and Corporate Governance (F&CG) Committee.

“Ahead of releasing the document for consultation, we indicated to the community that the coming financial year was more about the practicalities of maintaining the city;” Cr Houssam Abiad, Chair of F&CG Committee said.

“Investment this coming year will focus on roads, footpaths and other community assets with the budget less about big infrastructure projects; the hallmark of the last couple of budgets.”

“With Council elections in November, one of the principles used in preparing for the coming financial year was that decisions around large infrastructure investment should be left to the new Council rather than binding it to big spending decisions from the current one,” he said.

“Based on feedback from the community during the consultation, Council Administration will be bringing in recommendations on Tuesday night for where any additional works or services can be incorporated into the budget,” Houssam said.

In round numbers Council’s budget recommends an increase in the asset maintenance and renewals budget by $8 million to $30 million which will see upgrades to more local roads and footpaths, as well as lighting improvements.

After significant investment in recent years on projects like the Rundle Mall and Victoria Square upgrades, new asset investment is set at $12 million which will include new but smaller construction projects, as well as $6 million for the completion of the Mall from within its original $25 million construction budget.

The budget earmarks $11.6 million for operating projects which includes $1 million for city activation projects like Splash Adelaide, $1.6 million for sponsorships and grants and more than $700,000 to operate our new free City Connector Service.

More than $5.6 million is set aside for an array of community services and activities including community centres, libraries, the provision of home and community care services and a number of free training programs, along with nearly $300,000 for ongoing business support through Enterprise Adelaide.

Council is also investing more than $22 million in keeping our public open spaces well maintained and groomed, including nearly $9 million on the Adelaide Park Lands.

The majority of Council investment back into the city and North Adelaide is made possible through the generation of council rates from city residents and business operators, a range of fees and charges and revenues from Council businesses including the off-street parking operation, UPark.

Based on current estimates, it is expected the average increase in rates payable will be approximately 3.5% for all existing properties; however, once the Business Plan and Budget is endorsed through F&CG Committee on Tuesday night, we will be in a position to finalise the declaration of council rates in time for the full sitting of Council on 24 June.

Councillor Abiad said that amongst Council’s fees and charges, the one that generates the most community debate is the hot topic of parking prices.
“The potential for the introduction of the Transport Development Levy has amplified this even more,” he said.

“I can appreciate drivers are price sensitive around parking, but it’s important to remember that with the funds we raise annually from on street parking, and also UPark, every penny goes back into infrastructure and services for residents, business operators and city workers and visitors,” Houssam said.

“This is in sharp contrast to the State’s proposed Parking Tax which will rip more than $26 million from the city economy with no guarantee any funds will be spent where they’re raised,” he said.

In 14/15, Council is proposing modest on street parking increases of 20 cents in zone 1 and 2 parking areas per the associated time limit; these are spaces in the streets closer to the heart of the CBD. Weekend on street parking in the city will increase by 20 cents to $2.00 as per the associated time limit, of which most are three hour parks.

Cr Abiad said, “Council is soon to begin the installation of state of the art parking meters which introduce pay wave technology and bolster the number of credit card enabled meters across the city.

“On top of that we are assessing new innovation like in ground sensor which opens the door to smart phone technology to support fee payment and assist with navigation and parking availability.

“Introducing these technologies is part of our Smart Move Strategy and will go a long way to improving customer service and optimising the use of available on-street parking,” Houssam said.

On street and off street pricing structures in Council UParks are designed to complement each other with Council aiming to offer best value and convenience to motorists.

“By encouraging customers into off street UParks because of best value for money deals we ensure on street spaces are available for shorter term parkers visiting the city,” Houssam said.

“This leads to on street spaces turning over in high demand area as they are designed to do which is good for local businesses and convenient and cost effective for users.

“Of course what ends up happening with the Parking Tax will add a layer of complexity to our on and off street parking prices, but waiting to see what happens with the Bill and then reassessing our parking prices is the most likely scenario Council is considering,” Houssam said.

Council’s long term financial position remains well managed and conservative, with borrowings for the coming year set at $27.2 million, with overall debt levels well within Prudential Limits.

Prudential limits are the gauge by which we and other Councils monitor how debt levels are tracking. City of Adelaide remains well placed in relation to these limits, even with increased borrowings in recent years for major infrastructure projects.

Subject to it passing through Committee on Tuesday night, the Business Plan and Budget will go to a full Council meeting on 24 June 2014 for endorsement.

For more information on the projects that form part of Council’s 2014/15 Business Plan and Budget, visit cityofadelaide.com.au/business-plan-budget

Review the range of projects, initiatives and services proposed for 2014/15.

For more information

David Hill