BUDGET CUTS: Council’s plans have ratepayers worried
PROPOSED cuts to the arts and important recycling facilities has left some residents worried about the direction in which Lismore City Council is heading.
The council is set to vote on its 2020/21 operational budget tonight, after the draft plan was put on public exhibition.
The draft budget revealed the council planned on slashing many services simply because it could not afford them, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of many council revenue streams including the Lismore Regional Art Gallery and outdoor dining licenses.
Staff estimate COVID-19 could cost the council up to $1.5 million in lost revenue.
The council had previously agreed to cut 22 revitalisation projects to try to save money during the next financial year.
These projects included updating the 2015 flood plain risk management plan, investigating the rail trail for the Northern Rivers and upgrading existing footpaths within the main CBD block of Lismore.
But even with all these cuts or deferrals, staff have still budgeted a cash deficit of $282,000 for the next financial year.
The draft budget also adopts the full rate-pegging increase of 2.6 per cent for general rates.
More than 200 people submitted their objections to the draft budget during public consultation, with many raising concerns over cuts to projects and facilities.
The draft budget will see the Brewster St waste transfer station closed and tip vouchers not issued for 2020/21, in the hope these savings would help build reserves.
But many people raised the point that closing the recycling facility would directly impact rural residents who don’t have access to a waste service.
Some warned the closure could lead to a potential increase in illegal dumping.
Another issue raised in many submissions was the slashing of funding for the Lismore Quad, NORPA and arts projects.
The draft budget proposes funding not be provided for the Quad, after a three-year contract between the council and Southern Cross University comes to an end.
Meanwhile, the management fee for NORPA has also been withheld, with many residents fearing the company will struggle.
The council’s meeting starts at 6pm online.