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Under examination – the Council Budget

One of the large and ongoing issues of Council has been in respect to the cost of rates and the issues of the budget. So let’s look at these:

General Premise

Within the council budget a portion of rates should be set aside for operational costs including maintenance as well as for Council development. If this is not the case within the budget itself then there is something very wrong with the budget.

Council rates should be able to service all of those operational costs based on a worst case scenario of land value drops and every land owner falling to the concession criteria. If this has not been set as a threshold then it is time to look at why. We need to ensure that, even in a worst case scenario, that the Council budget is sustainable.

In the case where we are not in a worst case scenario then, there should be funds budgeted for further development of the community and Council services in addition to the ability to sustain any new ongoing costs from them. Yes, some finance may be leveraged to reach development goals but this should be done with adequate due diligence.

Council Rates

Not so many years ago, residents of City of Onkaparinga recieved several years of rate increases well above CPI. It was painful. Our household felt it just as much as the next. Local people who were renting even became vocal because increases in rates made a marked difference when owners reviewed their rent amounts also. To me, this still resonates as if it was yesterday. It was this rates pressure combined with Jeremy’s redundancy that made me start sharing my own budget tips, originally just locally but also picked up nationally.

As a continuing sentiment I feel that we definitely need to create a reprieve for property owners. This is especially with so many experiencing the pressures that have come with coronavirus as well and the need to not put extra pressure on the rental market whilst unemployment is climbing.

This is why I am committed to the Councillor’s Pledge:

Council Debt

When it comes to Council debt I am perhaps less worried about it than most in the context of where it is at this moment knowing that there is time over the remainder of this electoral term to make planned and strategic change. I also understand and apppreciate that the economic environment that we are living in has changed significantly over recent months.

Debt has two factors that we need to consider – the interest rate at which we are paying and the serviceability – how easily we can cover interest payments as part of ongoing costs and at what level we can repay it in context of a changing economic environment into the future.

I am also mindful that Council’s debt is not like a home loan on a single rate. Finance often comes from multiple sources and on different terms. This is why it is encumbant on all members of Council to review the finer details of City of Onkaparinga’s debt position.

As someone who has worked in industry for several years, I am all too famliar with managing a working debt. Business owners often walk a shoestring budget as they cover their ‘off-season’ whether that be in the low of the tourist season or the extreme weather days of the building and construction industry. These are the times where wages still have to be paid even if billable income is not coming in. What it takes to create a good budget when there is economic uncertainty is quality forecasting. As someone with experience in budget oversight and assisting businesses to manage their outgoings and debt as part of their budget forecasting I am confident I can convey economically sound views on behalf of the community I would be expected to represent.

Unsafe Transit

You’d think over the last twenty years that more might have been done to ensure safe for travel routes for residents in our areas that are returning home after alighting public transport. Surely it makes sense, right, that a person should have the safety of a lit, solid path to get home from a bus stop?

For local residents in Mid Coast Ward there are several locations where this isn’t the case. One such example is the stops on River road which lack both. The last time any spending on infrastructure for the bus stops 76A and 76B was in 2016 (PDF of minutes is here) and since that time there has been no expenditure to increase safe passage from them.

They are not alone. Our entire Council region has plenty of generally unsafe bus stops that should be looked at. This is also quite visible in routes through the hills areas of our council such as is along Chandler’s Hill Road.

In liaison with our state’s Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure we should have a plan to rectify this problem which, at it presently exists, puts local safety at risk.

A vote for me as a candidate for Mid Coast Ward is a vote for the safety for you and the wider community of the City of Onkaparinga.

‘Mutant’ Chinese Elms

It’s a battle that has spanned years and years now. Chinese Elms are known as being invasive and a known cause of structural damage from footpaths to housing slabs.

Worse still, in Noarlunga Downs’ ‘The Point’ and Seaford there appears to have been what has been labelled ‘mutant’ varieties which spawn from dropped leaves at hundreds of times the rate than normally occurs. The small super-fine leaves traveling considerable distances also in the wind. This propagates the problem – literally!!

A long historical battle has had the trees removed from the Council’s tree planting list but not before all their remaining stock was planted in vicinity to Colonnades Shopping Centre. But what now for those streets stuck with those trees and for the wider areas that are affected by the fine leaf litter and the new plants they spawn?

Last we heard, two years ago before the last election, was that the Council was willing to bear the cost of maintenance across the lifespan of the trees but with threats from some members of the community to sue the Council of they do not remedy the problem by removing the trees, maybe it’s time to revisit the cost of replacement now versus the cost of keeping them over the remaining expected lifespan of the trees in these areas.

As your local candidate, with your vote, I am committed to seeking an appropriate resolution to this problem on behalf of residents in both Mid Coast and South Coast Wards.

Why as ‘Prospective Candidate’?

As you look at my Facebook and Web Page at the moment you will notice that I’m not yet spruiking myself as a candidate. And for some of you who care about local governance who may be asking why, this post is just for you.

You see, I am a socially responsible person and therefore am currently honouring my obligation to engage in mandatory 14 day isolation. You see, on the basis that the border between New South Wales (NSW) and South Australia were planned to be opened on 20 July 2020, myself and seven children went camping including crossing into outback NSW, not too far from our border.

Yes, you read that right, me alone with seven children. If you are going to read anything into that, it shows that I am the kind of person that is not scared of a challenge. We prepared accordingly, of course.

Picture of Kristy sitting in the window frame of building ruins with her two youngest children
Kristy Wagner and children at the Milparinka Post Office ruins.

Our goal was to reach Cameron’s Corner (the meeting point of the Queensland, NSW and South Australian borders) and the safest route meant making that crossing. We travelled from Broken Hill to the gold-mining ghost town of Milparinka and then up to the far reaches of Sturt National Park to the corner. Yes, me with seven children – we did it!!

Whilst we were travelling the game changed whenit came to border protection because of coronavirus cases in urbanised NSW. We simply got caught in the change of circumstances.

I am not resentful that I have had to stay home, alone with seven kids 24/7 for a further 14 days. (Though, I will celebrate getting us all out and about again!) Isolation is an inevitable risk that comes with travel during this time. What is perhaps most important, is that I acknowledge the experience that in knowing, for myself, how low-risk our travel was that I respect and appreciate why this period of isolation is absolutely necessary in ensuring we protect the people we love and care about in our community.

So, please expect to find more details about my nomination in the coming week. In the mean time, you know exactly where I’ll be – at home where I should be.

Prospective Candidate for Mid Coast Ward