I was asked recently how a Council makes decisions on the allocation of ratepayer funds across the district. How do we ensure fairness and equity with respect to expenditure in different geographic areas?
Behind the question was a curiosity over who shoulders the running costs of the Dargaville pool, and who shoulders the cost of the Mangawhai wastewater scheme.
The governance body of Council makes these decisions, after seeking advice from the management team. In many instances, legislation will also help define the decision process.
Since appointment in September 2012, Commissioners have made up the governance team. When elections take place in October, the Mayor and Councillors will make up the governance team, and they will make these decisions.
Council decisions are often guided by policy, and policy is often consulted on.
We have developed policy, for instance, that the capital cost of wastewater schemes should be borne by the community that the scheme benefits. In the case of the Mangawhai scheme however, we made a further policy that essentially says that only the portion of the capital cost of this scheme that was consulted on would be borne by the Mangawhai community. The rest is spread district wide.
In the case of the Dargaville pool, we followed the decision of the previously elected Council, that the annual operating cost should be borne district wide. Today that cost is $257,000.
Recently we decided to begin work on a Town Plan for Mangawhai, and budgeted $180,000 for this current financial year for this work. We decided that this amount should be funded district wide. This Mangawhai Town Plan exercise will likely take place over several years, and costs might rise further. The next elected Council may decide to continue funding the work district wide, or it may decide to introduce a targeted rate to apply to the Mangawhai community based on the premise that this expenditure benefits Mangawhai property owners.
That is a long-winded way to answer the question, but these decisions are not black and white. They require judgement, and good judgement is what elected members need to provide for us.
Financial Accounts for the year ending 30 June 2016
At the Council meeting last week, preliminary financial accounts for the year ending 30 June 2016 were tabled. The year finished better than budgeted. Of note is:
* Sale of surplus land was $1.1 million. No sales were budgeted. This helped pay down debt.
* Development and financial contributions received were $4 million, some $3 million ahead of budget. This reflects high district wide growth.
* Finance costs were $3.8 million, some ten percent below budget, reflecting lower than expected debt.
* Council debt is $65 million, a level well below forecasts and well down on the high of $80 million in 2012. The settlement with the Auditor General earlier this year contributed to the lowering of debt.
* Legal and professional fees were higher than budget by $900,000, largely related to the ongoing litigation promoted by the Mangawhai Ratepayers and Residents Association and the action taken against the Office of the Auditor General. In the latter case, we more than recovered the fees through the settlement.
Four years ago, your Council could not produce monthly financial accounts. Today, monthly accounts are a matter of normal practice, produced soon after month end. This reflects the considerable progress made by the staff who work within Council.
The Kaipara District Council is being run like a business. Finances are closely monitored. Projects are carefully managed. And a customer service culture is to the forefront of our minds.