'Gobsmacked': Ballina mayor's response to financial audit

THE NSW Government has congratulated Ballina Shire Council for its financial management after auditing council's finance records.

Geoff Dwyer of Thomas Noble and Russell, contract auditor for the Audit Office of New South Wales, said Ballina Shire Council 'responded well' to COVID-19 in the 2019/20 Financial Report.

"Council's result overall is a $25.3 million surplus, that is $17 million lower than last year's $42.3 million," he said.

"The key 'movers and shakers' of that result were a rate increase by $3 million by the special rate variation, while grants and contributions decreased by $9.9 million," he said.

The Audit office will take a report with findings for all councils in NSW to the state Parliament in February 2021, and will offer recommendations on dealing with COVID, natural disasters, IT security and other areas.

Ballina mayor David Wright was glowing with pride while listening to Mr Dwyer speaking to councillors last week.

"To be honest, when we saw the numbers I was gobsmacked that we were actually a lot better that I thought," he said.

"With the amount of money that we have forgone giving people rent relief and all that sort of stuff, and not having the airport operating (for a while), we still ended up in a good position.

"We haven't put off one project, nobody lost their jobs at council, we supported our local businesses, and I think because of good management and good people that are managing it, and mostly good councillor decisions, we are in a good place financially."

Although the pandemic support package by the council was deemed private, the End of Year 2019/20 report tabled by the council offered an estimation of $939,000 as the cost of the council's pandemic response.

The list of costs incurred by the council to support the community during the pandemic includes $384,000 on refunds or waivers of rental charges for commercial property and airport tenants including car hire companies.

The council also waived the collection of ferry fees and carparking fines (other than those issued for safety, health and disability access reasons) from April 1 to June 30, 2020.

The amount of revenue forgone by the council was calculated to be $239,000 based on the ferry fees received and fines issued in the 2019/20 year up to April 1.

The financial reports will now be advertised and then presented, with any public comments received, to the council meeting scheduled for Thursday, November 26.

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