$30m deficit for Newcastle Council

Nanjing Night Net

NEWCASTLE City Council is on track to post a $30 million operating deficit this year, according to a quarterly review document that will be tabled at Tuesday night’s meeting.

But budget review statements for the first three months of 2013 show the council has ‘‘stopped the rot’’, lord mayor Jeff McCloy said.

The council came in about $400,000 ahead of expectations – the first time a quarterly review hasn’t recorded a blown budget since September 2011.

‘‘It’s only marginal in the scheme of things, but I think we’ve stopped the rot,’’ Cr McCloy said.

The better-than-expected financial result is partly due to reduced salary costs – a result of a staffing freeze implemented in November.

The city saved $230,000 on staffing between January and March.

‘‘Council continues to implement the recruitment freeze across its entire workforce,’’ the budget review said.

‘‘As a result of the reduction in recruitment, absorption of vacant position responsibilities and natural attrition [the] council has a lower than forecast employee cost.’’

New lease arrangements for beach kiosks and higher investment returns have also helped.

Swimming pool attendance has been lower than anticipated, costing the council about $213,000. Community groups have frequently said pool attendances suffer because of recent entrance fee increases.

The construction slowdown continues to cost the council money, with about $215,000 missing in expected development application fees.

While the quarterly review provides the council with its first positive financial news in some time, the city is still on track to post a $29.89million operating deficit for the year to June.

The operating deficit is the underlying figure and considered the best measure of an organisation’s sustainability.

The projected overall result, which is masked by $10 million in loans and $7.9 million transferred from council reserves, is a $2.46 million deficit.