Cash shortfall puts road works at risk
Road seal extensions will continue in the Timaru district – but only just.
Councillors hotly debated the issue of seal extension yesterday, after news that the funding it was expecting from government for the next financial year of $746,000 would be more than 6 per cent less than anticipated.
Council's long-term plan shows $330,000 in the budget for seal extension each year, but some councillors questioned whether that should remain given the cost of maintaining sealed roads and the indication that New Zealand Transport Agency's funding increases in the coming three years would be less than expected.
The anticipated funding reduction comes on top of the last three years in which there had been no allowance for inflation even though costs increased 8.5 per cent, road transport manager Andrew Dixon told council.
Based on the coming year's roading renewal and maintenance programme of $12.08 million, rates would have had to increase more than 1 per cent to make up for the shortfall.
Councillors found that unacceptable and opted to stick with the rating input already in the long term plan. Reports to council next month will show the effect the reduced government funding will have on the work unlikely to be done and the longer term financial implication of putting off maintenance work.
In light of the shortfall, some councillors questioned whether it was appropriate to leave $330,000 in the budget for seal extension, with Cr Tracy Tierney suggesting there was a need to look at the greater picture.
Doing so, it might even reveal more than $300,000 should be spent on seal extension.
"It is more about giving ourselves options, not committing ourselves."
Changes to criteria meant it was 10 years since the council received any government subsidy towards seal extension.
Only half the district's 1700 kilometres of road were sealed, and Cr Richard Lyon suggested councillors were naive if they thought that was enough.
As a rural ratepayer, Cr Steve Earnshaw said he would take offence if money was spent on seal extension when it could have been better spent elsewhere.
The council needed to "keep true to its word" and continue its seal extension programme, Cr Jane Coughan said, adding that not to do so would be a very retrograde step.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should the Star Trust GM be able to attend Timaru's meeting on synthetic cannabis?Related story: 'Legal, but it's not safe'