Monday night’s ordinary meeting of Dubbo Regional Council allowed me to present one of the proudest achievements of my first year as mayor when I announced $10.1 million of savings.
There is nothing ratepayers hate more than when their council is wasting money and failing to keep costs down and I don’t blame them.
Households work hard to save money and they rightfully expect governments to do the same so they aren’t burdened with excessive rates and taxes.
That is why I have worked so hard since becoming mayor to ensure council is running as efficiently as possible.
I asked CEO Michael McMahon and the senior staff to look at areas where we could save money and then worked to make it happen.
That hard work has paid off with $10.1 million in savings over the next four years identified since September 2017, and once the financials for 2017-18 are completed it is estimated a further $2 million will have been saved.
This is a fantastic result. These savings are significant, and will ensure that council’s healthy position is maintained and other worthwhile community projects can be funded.
The areas these savings have been made have been closely looked at to ensure cutting costs doesn’t have any negative impact. Instead these are a streamlining of former policies, agreements and decisions that weren’t providing the best value possible.
As the council has worked through staffing changes as a result of amalgamation, the savings from staff vacancies have been quarantined so they can be used for other purposes.
In simple terms, if there is a job vacancy when an employee leaves the company, the money that would have gone to their salary is placed into saving, until a replacement is hired.
Similarly we have had a consolidation of the services provided across the two councils, such as legal services, consultancies and contractors, and that has resulted in a saving of $1.4 million.
Other savings achieved through the merger total $2.2 million and a realignment of infrastructure projects has put a further $1.7 million in the city's coffers.
One truly staggering saving has come through a reconfiguration of council’s telephone system. By changing some landline and mobile plans, council is saving $800,000 over the next four years.
It is just another example of looking at the way council has been doing things and seeing if it can be improved. In this case it really could.
All of these savings will have a major benefit for our ratepayers. We have looked at ways to responsibly use the savings to make improvements around the region.
They include spending an additional $4 million across four years on rural roads maintenance to ensure our streets are kept up to standard.
We have also allocated $2 million for more Gross Pollutant Traps, to reduce the amount of garbage that flows into the Macquarie River. The traps that have been installed are helping so much but the reality is there are still so many stormwater drains that flow into the Macquarie without a trap to catch bottles, cans and other litter.
We also have one eye on the future of our incredible region, and that is why we have set aside $1 million a year for the next four years for special projects.