Council endorse flexible and rapid response to impacts of COVID-19

Published: Tuesday, 24 March 2020 at 7:06:31 PM

To help address the economic impacts caused by the current COVID-19 health crisis, Council have agreed to endorse measures and actions to balance revenues but keep providing essential services to the community.

A special item at tonight’s Council Meeting saw Councillors direct the CEO to prepare a 2020/21 Budget scenario based on a freeze of rates, and fees and charges, abolishing all parking fees, and waivers on rates instalment fees and interest.

City of Greater Geraldton Mayor Shane Van Styn said the City and Council recognise this is a health crisis, but social and financial implications on the community need to be carefully managed.

“We need to balance the prospect of declining revenues and calls for cost relief, with the need to continue delivering essential City services now while providing stimulus funding for new projects when the recovery period arrives,” he said.

“Our operational budget is $80 million, comprised of approximately $46 million in rates, $25 million in fees, charges and interest and $9 million in state and federal grants - meaning we are mainly self-funded.  

“The City would like to see stimulus funding provided to local government to help shoulder the financial burden being placed upon ratepayers in these difficult times.

“The City will endeavour to be flexible and provide rapid responses as the crisis unfolds and we ask the community to show tolerance to each other.

“Measures endorsed by Council will have a serious impact on the City’s Budget- but in light of our need to balance our operations with community concerns we feel these are reasonable steps to take at this time.”

During the Meeting, Mayor Van Styn also moved a motion to give immediate action directions to the CEO on a number of Budget and operational directives.

As part of Budget directives, the CEO was directed to immediately suspend commencement of any new capital and renewal work projects that are not significantly grant funded, or a significant safety project, until after the adoption of the 2020/21 City Budget.

There will also be an immediate review all operational service levels for the purposes of significantly reducing operational costs.

Immediate operational directives included ceasing the operation of all parking meters within the city and implementing ticket-free, free parking with time limits remaining enforced.

All remaining community facilities including the QEII Seniors and Community Centre, community halls, the Mullewa Pool and public ornamental water fountains will close.

Maintenance service levels will reduce at City ovals in response to the suspension of local sporting competitions.

All City free RV overnight parking locations in the CBD, Point Moore and Drummond Cove will close and a review of access to public toilets will take place to ensure social distancing and current hygiene standards are met.

Major shopping centres and stores will be contacted by the City asking for them to comply with state and federal health directives including the implementation of voluntary social distancing measures.

Lastly, the CEO was directed to investigate opportunities to support the local community through the impending isolation period by developing online services and communications.

“We need to protect the community from the spread of COVID-19 and ensure financial sustainability of the City is maintained,” Mayor Van Styn added.

“Council have provided immediate direction to the CEO in light of rapidly changing advice and escalating restrictions on public gatherings.

“This crisis will pass and we need to ensure we are ready to facilitate the recovery and recommence the provision of our community services.”

Community health and safety remains a top priority for the City and as a result, there have been impacts on a number of facilities and programming.

All updates are available on the City’s website.

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