Number crunching for the CHRC

The Central Highlands Regional Council will review its expenses to get the council budget back to surplus.
The Central Highlands Regional Council will review its expenses to get the council budget back to surplus. Jay Cronan

THE Central Highlands Council is confident it can bounce back in to the black from a $16 million deficit by the end of June.

Financial services manager Adam Scott defended the council's overall position as "very safe" as new councillor, Emerald accountant Peter Maundrell, called for full transparency of all the council's fiscal dealings to be disclosed in future department reports.

"We need to know what makes up the nuts and bolts of any financial statements before we can make informed decisions," Cr Maundrell said.

"Forgive me for being a green councillor but we need more detailed analysis."

Cr Maundrell highlighted the council carrying an $8m debt on Shepton Quarry as the reason for wanting to see a profit-and-loss breakdown and analysis of all business units, as well as a list and depreciation breakdown of all council assets.

He asked to see a list of council-employed contractors to see "what… and how much was spent".

Councillor Paul Bell said local government traditionally had a "soft hand" when it came to its business dealings as opposed to operating in "snappy commercial" mode.

Mr Scott said the deficit reflected the difference between expenditure on flood-related road works and the return of revenue from the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

Payments of $5.4m in May and $28.4m in June are expected from the QRA.

The total cost of the 2010/11 flood event is now $103m, with about $40mi spent on contract labour.

"A deficit of $16m, which is much improved from previous months, will decrease as we start to collect that Queensland Reconstruction Authority funding," Mr Scott said.

With total assets now topping the $1 billion mark, the council had a high level of liquidity in its financial position.

"Council is well able to service its current trade debts as and when they fall due seven times, reflecting that council's overall position is healthy," Mr Scott said.

Cr Maundrell's requests at the first official meeting of the new-look council elicited this response from Mayor Peter Maguire:

"You're at a bit of an advantage to us mere mortals - that's why we've got an audit committee and you're on it."

At its next meeting, councillors will have to decide if they approve borrowings to fund a new $30million water treatment plant on Emerald's southside, to deal with the population surge.

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