AS The Courier first revealed last month, Ballarat City Council faces a massive task to reconfigure its budget due to the unforeseen government superannuation bill.
That the information about the extent of the Defined Benefits Scheme blowout came only after the council’s original budget had been put on public display is in itself mind-boggling.
It is difficult to understand just how the original figure of $4 million which was factored in by Ballarat City Council could be so far removed from the final figures. Were the right questions asked? Were the right answers given?
Either way, it is a flawed system that allows such a massive discrepancy to be detailed only days before the budget is due to be finalised.
Ballarat Council, it seems, is just one of many municipalities that are now also dealing with this problem, so responsibility lies somewhere in the bigger picture.
Attaching some accountability could stop this same situation from occurring again in the future.
The implications of the figures will be significant, not only for the council but for services and ratepayers.
A $6 million black hole cannot be easily covered by clever accounting.
Big cuts to services, or rises in rates would be the first propositions that come to mind, even if that is not the outcome for the 2012-13 financial year as the possibility of borrowing to cover the initial impost is likely.
Considering the budget was already tight – the commitment to set rate increases has reduced flexibility to fund programs and services which are not only requested but needed by local residents – there is little wriggle room.
The finalisation of the budget has already been delayed. While the uncertainty attached to this measure is not ideal, rushing to “fix” the problem is not in the best interests of the council nor its constituents.
Unforeseen, unexpected and unwanted, the superannuation blowout is going to impact upon ratepayers for possibly years to come and residents have every right to be angry, and to seek answers, about this situation.