Masons Road causes budget debate

CITY of Whittlesea Mayor Lawrie Cox has hit back about council’s spending on roads, following debate about Masons Road at the May 7 council meeting.

In the meeting, councillors discussed the amount of money sitting in council finances to determine whether council could cover the costs of sealing and improving Masons Road.

Sealing the gravel-based, western end of the road between Epping Road and Texel Drive will cost $12 million according to council reports.

Cr Mary Lalios said in the meeting that council had $89 million in surplus and therefore contended there was $12 million available to fund the project.

Cr Cox later released a statement saying meeting the needs of the growing community in building roads, footpaths and other leisure facilities is always a challenge.

“We have limited financial capacity and we are trying to achieve as much as we can for our residents while being conscious of the rising cost of living. It’s always a balancing act,” Cr Cox said.

“We have $550 million worth of capital works projects in the pipeline for delivery over the next five to six years but we can’t do everything and we have to prioritise.

“I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve and our strong financial performance to date in 2018/19.

“I was pleased at the May 7 Council meeting to welcome a positive result for Council’s quarter three financial performance.

“We reported a $60 million accounting surplus – $10.88 million ahead of the year-to-date Budget.

“However, while it may look like we have a lot of hard cash, it is all accounted for in future spending.

“The result is due to differences in timing from when our revenue comes in to when we expect to pay our bills and when invoices are actually received and paid for.

“If we do have any cash surplus at the end of the financial year, it is normal practice to reinvest in future projects through our Infrastructure Reserve Fund.

“Adding to the Infrastructure Reserve helps us reduce the funding gap in the previously planned Long Term New Works Program. It is not an opportunity for ad hoc spending.

“Council is currently considering all Budget submissions received throughout the public consultation period and is scheduled to adopt the 2019/20 Budget at a Special Council Meeting on Thursday 6 June.

Cr Cox said some of the capital works highlights of the budget include $4.1 million for construction of Findon Road extension, $8.9 million for signalisation of the intersection at Ferres Boulevard and Findon road, $9.7 million for Mill Park Leisure Development, $2.48 million for Mernda Recreation Leisure Centre and many other projects.