The dialogue about divisional budgets has been front of mind for the past few months, attracting the attention of the Gold Coast Bulletin, both in article and editorial.
Some have said in the past that divisional funding is just “pork-barrelling” (loosely, paying for votes) but after 12 months in this great job, I have to say this is pretty misleading. Of course, the discretional funds a Councillor has for local projects can be allocated to particular activities over others but in a division like ours (Mudgeeraba, Highland Park and Hinterland) the pressures on our divisional budgets are considerable. I’m committed to fair and reasonable allocation of divisional funds but also transparency when it comes to consultation with the public about their use.
That’s why I’m publishing my draft 13/14 Local Area Works budget this weekend asking for your thoughts.
We’ve spent the last 12 months conducting 9 street meets, which were local consultations in different areas of the division. Over 9000 residents had an opportunity to chat with us and let us know what you think we should be working on in the coming year.
The data is insightful. Of all the specific comments we recieved, over 75% related to Council’s core business of parks, playgrounds, roads, pathways, and local programs. We’ve taken this into account when allocating funds in our budget.
I’ll highlight FIVE key components as you read the document (which is attached at the bottom of this page);
1. $80,000 is allocated to staff costs specific to my divisional office. This involves two part-time employees (approx 2 days each) who have distinct but equally important tasks. My Grants & Research Officer (Donna) works with community groups to help apply for grant funding. She also liaises with them in conjunction with the many events we run, or help groups run that enhance the community spirit and economy in our region. Many community groups have recieved state government, federal government or corporate funding worth, collectively, hundreds of thousands of dollars due to her work. Her assistance is indispensable and must be funded. My Community Development Officer’s (Chantelle) chief role has been delivering our commitment to community consultation. She’s co-ordinated the street meets, managed the consultation processes on the day, collated and analysed the data, and created a few documents the deliver the results. You’ll see these published and mailed to you in the coming months. Her work has been aligned with the feedback I recieved throughout my election campaigning suggesting that “Listening” to the community was critically important and was differentiated what residents were getting from Council in the past, and what they wanted. Frankly, I’m confident that continuing that commitment to delivering what residents say they want is right for our division.
2. $331,000 is allocated to Parks and Playgrounds. It became evident at our first few street meets that your local park is really important to you. With 211 of them in our division, I thought it was critical we conducted an audit to work out what we have in every park, what the life of the equipment (slides, swings, seats, etc) was expected to be, and what the usage looked like. An officer from the Parks team (Dan) did a sterling job formulating this information and it’s available for viewing in my office any time you like. I reckon Dan knows our Div 9 parks better than anyone in the city now. The downside of the exercise was that we identified $1.2 million was required over 3 years to MAINTAIN our existing parks to an acceptable standard. That’s a LOT of money. To spare me closing any parks down we’ll be required to allocate a big portion of our divisional budget each year to meeting these obligations. In the first year, if divisional budgets are reduced we’ll have to postpone a few activities or risk manage their deferral until other funding sources might possibly be identified.
3. Pathways are really important to residents, and everyone wants one. We’ve kept track of potential pathways with significant community support for installation and the list, although far from exhaustive, is included on the budget. Some we just can’t afford until later years but keep letting us know and we’ll keep working on ways to deliver connected paths to our existing network. Higher priority is allocated to projects that have significant potential usage, are located in gaps in the existing network, or those that lack the potential for new urban developments to meet the obligation.
4. This is the year of Netball for sport in Division 9. 2012/13 saw considerable allocation to Firth Park infrastructure that benefited Rugby League (scoreboard, furniture in eating area). We also allocated some funds to Baseball for the construction of a batting cage. I love the Redbacks, but it’s Netball’s turn this year. NetFest will be on again this year and hundreds turn up most Saturdays down at Firth to play in the Hinterland and Districts Netball Competition. We need to explore installing grandstands and shade structures. Although the money allocated is unlikely to actually deliver those solution in their entirety, the allocation will accompany grant applications to achieve the outcomes for the many young people (and old alike) who enjoy netball in Mudgeeraba every week.
5. Cultural Heritage and Communication have been allocated small amounts in this budget. We’ve recieved many requests for a newsletter updating the community on what’s going on and we’ll be putting that together and delivering twice a year. We’ve also funded a short featurette (30 min film) accompanying one we produced this year highlighting the history and heritage of our area. Soon you’ll be able to see our work from this year and I’m sure you’ll agree for the small allocation of budget it’s a project that will last lifetimes and is something many locals can be very proud of.
The key objective in this transparency process is highlighting what we’ll lose if the divisional budgets are cut. I’ve outlined the budget at $500,000, $650,000, $750,000 and $1,000,000. This year the budget was $870,000. In a climate where competing pressures are limiting our ability to deliver core services in the west I hope you can see how important getting a satisfactory outcome is.
Finally, I encourage you to contact our office to discuss the draft budget or comment below. You can also post on facebook or tweet me your thoughts (@glennonthegc).