City of Greater Bendigo says its financial position is healthy

The City of Greater Bendigo says it coffers are in a relatively healthy position, as it recorded an overall cash deficit of almost $130,000 in the 2016-17 fiscal year.

According to the city’s financial statement, an overspend of $11.9 million, including higher than expected costs associated with the Eaglehawk and White Hills landfill sites, pushed the budget into the red.

Four million dollars was spent on landfill cover and an increased levy to meet Environmental Protection Agency requirements for remediation works at Eaglehawk landfill, while extra costs of $2.5 million were associated with higher levels of activity at Ulumbarra Theatre.

Bendigo council’s director of corporate performance Kerryn Ellis said its finances were in a “healthy position” but required constant monitoring in a more constrained fiscal environment.

“If it (deficit) was happening every year I would have concerns,” she said, adding in the previous financial year the council was $250,000 in the black.

A $17 million loan to fund infrastructure projects also contributed to the overall deficit.

At June 30, council’s debt ratio, which is measured by comparing loans and borrowings to rate revenue, was 47.6 per cent.

That places Bendigo in a ‘medium’ repayment risk category, as classified by the Victorian Auditor General’s office. 

“We have a very (fiscally) responsible council,” Ms Ellis said, adding the finances were positive and “for the moment” sustainable. 

The state government introduced an indefinite rate cap in December, 2015, which it said was in response to uncontrollable rate rises from local governments. 

The city said it could lose more than $25 million over seven years in the current rate-capping climate, with jobs and services potentially at risk. 

Similarly, Campaspe Shire Council claimed the cap would cost it $14 million over the next 10 years, while Central Goldfields Shire Council valued its projected losses at around $2.3 million across four years.