Newcastle council budget blown in first 3 months

A CONSTRUCTION downturn, wet weather and significant injuries to staff caused Newcastle City Council to run over budget in the first three months of 2012.

The council now expects to finish the financial year with a $1.4 million deficit, having initially tabled a balanced budget.

Councillors will meet tomorrow to discuss the budget and also to approve a plan for the next financial year. The recommended option for 2012-13 includes an 8.6 per cent rates increase, which if backed by councillors will be decided by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal next month.

The council’s financial performance in January, February and March this year was $104,123 worse than predicted.

A report given to councillors says the city lost out on $149,000 in construction fees because of an industry downturn and ‘‘an increased use of the private sector to obtain construction certificates’’.

Wet weather meant attendances at city pools and the Beresfield Golf Course also dropped significantly. Pools at Beresfield, Wallsend, Mayfield and Stockton Pools were $241,500 under budget due to wet weather and a ‘‘large downturn in attendances’’.

The wet was not all bad news for the council, which was saved from spending a scheduled $150,000 on road maintenance, and $60,000 on pest and weed control at the golf course.

Parking meters brought in an extra $10,875, but the council missed out on $271,000 in parking income because of vacancies in the compliance unit.

According to the report medical and hospital costs have increased by $200,000 ‘‘due to unexpected significant surgery in a number of claims’’.

Weekly payments to injured workers were $108,000 more than had been budgeted for. The report says longer recovery times for injured workers is ‘‘a possible reflection on our ageing workforce’’.

The biggest saving was almost $600,000 gained after a recalculation of the organisation’s superannuation liability.

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