Figures from Gympie Regional Council reveal more than $53 million in unconstrained cash reserves was spent in six years, putting the organisation in a situation where it may need to borrow from Queensland Treasury to keep operations running.
Figures from Gympie Regional Council reveal more than $53 million in unconstrained cash reserves was spent in six years, putting the organisation in a situation where it may need to borrow from Queensland Treasury to keep operations running.

REVEALED: How Gympie council spent $53 million in 6 years

QUESTIONS about past Gympie Regional Council's cash splash will continue to swirl for some time, with figures revealing more than $50 million in unconstrained reserves was spent in six years.

Figures provided by the council to The Gympie Times show reserves sank from $88.2 million in 2014 to an estimated $26.5 million in 2020.

This included a drop in unconstrained cash - money not from grants, subsidies, or developer charges - from $69.6 million (of which $66.2 was earmarked for "future projects") to an estimated $16.3 million, bringing the total spending spree to almost $53 million.

The resurrection of the Mary Valley Rattler, and the consturction of Gympie’s new swimming pool, account for almost $30 million of the spend.
The resurrection of the Mary Valley Rattler, and the consturction of Gympie’s new swimming pool, account for almost $30 million of the spend.

More than two-thirds of the reserves were spent in a three-year period from 2016-19; almost $30 million went on the new aquatic centre and the resurrection of the Mary Valley Rattler.

The ongoing operating deficits may have contributed, too.

The amount stowed away in the council's coffers ultimately was at the heart of a firestorm of ideological debate during the past council term.

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Some corners of the community, including ex-councillor Ian Petersen and new Mayor Glen Hartwig, heavily criticised what they believed was excessive spending beyond what the council could afford.

The extent of the spend became a battle ground between ex-Mayor Mick Curran and new Mayor Glen Hartwig last term.
The extent of the spend became a battle ground between ex-Mayor Mick Curran and new Mayor Glen Hartwig last term.

Others, including ex-Division 4 councillor Daryl Dodt and ex-mayor Mick Curran, argued the council was doing a disservice to ratepayers by hoarding that much in the bank.

Mr Curran pointed to Queensland Treasury best practice recommendations in defence of the spending spree.

These include having no more in the bank than enough to cover six months of the council's operations, and no lower than three months' worth (about $25 million).

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However the council is now on the verge of sinking below even this lowest benchmark; of the $26.5 million in the bank, more than $10 million is earmarked for specific projects and cannot be used to fund anything else.

The council is now at risk of falling below the best practice recommendations of Queensland Treasury, which suggests a minimum of three months of operational costs (about $25 million for Gympie council) be kept in the bank.
The council is now at risk of falling below the best practice recommendations of Queensland Treasury, which suggests a minimum of three months of operational costs (about $25 million for Gympie council) be kept in the bank.

Acting chief financial officer David Lewis said at the June ordinary council meeting the budget adopted by the council in 2019 forecast insufficient cash to maintain the council's operations.

"If we wanted to maintain our work force, keep our capital works delivery going and still run those deficits we would run out of cash," Mr Lewis said last week.

The council has signed off on borrowing up to $10 million from QTC in the form of an overdraft as a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency solution.

Gympie Times


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