New twist in Gympie’s $65k Christmas tree debacle
GYMPIE’S Christmas has lost some of its sparkle with Gympie Regional Council cancelling the decoration of its controversial $65k Christmas tree after it was revealed the project was already $20,000 over budget.
CEO Shane Gray said to date $120,000 had been spent delivering the tree and other decorations around the region, blitzing the council’s $100,000 budget.
To finish the job, he said, would drive that figure up to $150,000.
“What is needed to finish the Christmas tree for the community is not possible as the budget has already been exceeded,” Mr Gray said.
Spending this would not align with the council’s push for financial responsibility and accountability.
“Council have sent a very clear message about budgeting and unfortunately to decorate and light the tree this year was not feasible without incurring unnecessary cost,” Mr Gray said.
“I want to take this opportunity to apologise to those in our community for this.
“The simple truth is council cannot afford it at the moment,” Mr Gray said.
The tree and the lighting system were purchased in 2019.
Unfortunately the frame – which forms part of the design as voted by the community last year – needed to hold the lighting system could not be ordered or made in time for the 2019 Christmas period.
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Councillors voted at the Ordinary Meeting held on 26 August 2020 to complete the frame and the project, however there was some concern regarding the remaining budget for the tree and the council’s current financial position.
The original budget was for $100,000, with $35,000 set aside for regional decorations via community groups across the region.
This left $65,000 for the tree (including transport and planting), the light system, frame and construction.
To date, more than $120,000 has been spent on the project with another $27,800 required to complete the frame for the lighting system, bringing the total cost up to just over $150,000; $50,000 over budget.
“The organisation has a very clear direction from council on appropriate spending and unfortunately this project does not fit within the budget and will not proceed at this stage.
“Council is still very much dedicated to fostering community spirit this Christmas.
“We will, of course, continue to decorate the CBD and regional areas as we always do, and we will look at how we can use the lights ordered in 2019,” Mr Gray said.
Mayor Glen Hartwig thanked the CEO for ensuring financial accountability within the organisation.
“I was concerned about the integrity of the finances around the tree and am very glad the CEO has listened to council and come back with a financially responsible decision.”
“Although it is disappointing that we won’t be able to complete the project due to our financial position, we must be financially accountable for our residents and our community.
“There’s no getting past that we went over budget and there are no funds left to complete the Christmas tree this year.”