THE City of Kalamunda adopted its budget for the 2020-21 financial year at a special council meeting on Tuesday night.
According to City director of corporate services Gary Ticehurst, the budget was designed with a focus on meeting social and economic needs, providing assistance for financial hardship cases and responding to the State Government’s call for local governments to take a leadership role in assisting the community through COVID-19.
A key component of that focus was keeping in line with council’s commitment in April 2020 to not increase total rate revenue and fees and charges, however this was predicted to negatively impact the City by around $1 million.
Two new reserves were established, including a $1 million Crisis Relief Fund to support those experiencing serious financial hardship due to COVID-19, and a $1 million Service Reinstatement Reserve to bring programs or services back into the budget, in line with the lifting of restrictions to support recovery.
The Capital Works Program totalled $38.3 million, with $9.6 million for stimulus projects.
The most controversial topic at the meeting – which carried on for an hour and a half – was the Haynes Street and Central Mall Streetscape Construction stimulus projects, in which $2.4 million would be allocated this financial year for only one of those projects to proceed, with the other commencing the following financial year.
An open discussion during a suspension of standing orders about which project should proceed first soon turned into an ugly debate which left council divided.
As the mover of the motion, Councillor John Giardina made it clear Haynes Street was his preferred choice, however, after a majority of councillors indicated otherwise, his stance changed.
“It is what it is, I know both have to be done and I certainly don’t want because I’m pushing for Haynes that I’m gonna lose one or the other,” he said.
“We’ll go wherever the majority is and just get on with it.”
Once standing orders resumed, Cr Dylan O’Connor spoke strongly against the motion, stating people he had spoken to were not telling him to rip the road up and rebuild it and that they loved the current character and feel of the town centre.
“Which I understand is the main drawcard for why people who are looking for that lifestyle choose to move to Kalamunda,” he said.
“We are essentially flipping a coin as we work out how to spend $2.4 million.”
Councillors against the motion said not enough information had been provided to support either project at this time.
However other councillors, including Mayor Margaret Thomas said they had heard people say many times, ‘fix up the town centre’.
In Cr Giardina’s final remarks on the motion, he said he was perplexed and disappointed by some comments from his fellow councillors.
While Cr Giardina did not specifically mention the names of these councillors, he did refer to them, causing Cr O’Connor to speak up from across the table.
Cr Thomas called for order and told Cr Giardina to refrain from making comments about other councillors.
Cr Giardina continued to speak, with Cr Lesley Boyd calling for a point of order twice, stating she was being misrepresented.
Cr Thomas told Cr Giardina and Cr Boyd “that was enough” and to “wind this up”.
“We need to start doing something,” Cr Giardina said.
“If we don’t, we’re going to leave it as it is, and Kalamunda is going to die.”
Ultimately, the motion that the Central Mall Streetscape Construction proceed was carried 7-5.
In comparison to the City’s 2019-20 budget, operating income decreased by $2.3 million, operating expenditure decreased by $7.7 million and there were net borrowings of $3.053 million.
The estimated, unaudited year end position for 2019-20 is a surplus of around $3.47 million, while the proposed closing position for 2020-21 is a surplus of almost $134,000.