Ratepayers’ group blasts budget speed

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
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The Port Hedland Ratepayers Association has criticised the Town of Port Hedland for the lack of time given to the public to understand its 2017-18 budget.

After a 10-minute debate, Town of Port Hedland councillors voted in favour of passing the 2017-18 budget at a special council meeting last week.

The $84.6 million budget boasts several changes and savings for the Town, which includes $63.6 million of operating expenditure and a $21 million capital works program.

Port Hedland Ratepayers Association media spokesman Arnold Carter labelled the budget release “absurd”, saying three days was not adequate time for the public or council to digest it.

“It is absolutely impossible time that you give for this staff and this crew to adopt the budget of this magnitude in three days,” he said.

“I think it’s wrong, it’s incorrect and should never happen again.”

Mayor Camilo Blanco said the councillors had been working on sections of the budget over the past seven months and described it as “balanced” and beneficial for the Town’s long-term goals.

“The Town will be releasing a series of budget fact sheets and highlights to the public to ensure all residents understand where their rates are being spent,” he said.

Several changes will take place throughout the Town in the coming financial year, including a commitment to spend more than $1 million on the infrastructure of roads, drainage, kerbs and footpaths.

Cost cutting was the biggest theme throughout the budget as the Town aims to save $3.5 million from a net staffing reduction of 22 employees from the 2016-17 financial year.

Mr Blanco said asset renewal was a key priority when developing the budget, meaning refurbishing infrastructure rather than upgrading and replacing ageing infrastructure.

Of the capital works, 41.5 per cent will go solely to renewal projects, including the Matt Dann Theatre and Cinema, the South Hedland Aquatic Centre and Gratwick Aquatic Centre.

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