There were congratulations and words of warning as Dunedin
city councillors confronted their budget for the coming year
for the first time in public yesterday.
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull set the tone by praising the
''extraordinary'' work of Dunedin City Council staff, led by
chief executive Paul Orders, for achieving a 2.8% rates rise
for councillors to consider.
The increase projected in the 2013-14 pre-draft budget was
well below the 4% target set by councillors last year, giving
councillors $1.4 million of headroom for debt repayment or
another pressing priority.
However, the elephant in the room remained Dunedin Venues
Management Ltd, with a report on the finances of the company
and the stadium it operated still to be made public.
And, speaking yesterday, Mr Cull warned councillors the 1.2%
gap between 2.8% and 4% did not mean there was money to
''This is not money. This is not something to be spent. This
... is an opportunity for us to invest in savings or invest
in specific projects that have a return.
''It's not an opportunity to go and spend up large again.''
That meant the deliberations to come were about deciding how
best to deploy the $1.4 million, and already accelerating
debt repayment was one area that would need continued
attention, he believed.
''Our community is quite conscious of the need for us to be
moving in the direction that we are.
''We are on track as a council ... this is another
opportunity for us to stay on track.''
Mr Orders concurred, telling councillors they now had
''options'', but only ''modest'' ones, and work on this
year's budget was only a start.
''My view is there's always room for improvement ... it has
to be viewed as a work in progress,'' he said.