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Cutting costs and working smarter helps reduce rates

Cost savings and greater efficiencies in the 2009/10 financial year have helped Environment Waikato achieve a year-end surplus ahead of forecast that could be used to further trim next year’s rates.

A report to the finance and audit committee yesterday detailed the regional council’s positive financial and service performance for the year ending 30 June 2010.

"We continue to seek greater efficiencies and cost savings by looking to work smarter by, for example, reducing travel costs through videoconferencing," said chief executive Bob Laing.

The report to the committee showed the council substantially achieved its performance targets and delivered a $2.67 million operating surplus, which after budget adjustments, provisions for unbudgeted call on funds and requests for budget carry overs, provided a further net surplus of $535,000. The committee recommended the council carry forward the surplus into the 2010/11 year.

This surplus is in addition to previously forecasted surplus of $497,000. These savings were factored into reducing the current year rate increase.

Key contributors to the favourable result include lower than budgeted costs for the upcoming local government election, subcommittee meeting attendances, statutory reporting processes, travel and accommodation costs, staff training, legal advice and consent appeals. Staff vacancies, deferred appointments and delays in letting contracts also contributed to the favourable position.

Councillors meeting attendance budget was $11,598 underspent. Staff have applied to the Remuneration Authority to carry forward the maximum allowable amount of $9000 into the new triennium.
 
The unbudgeted items that will be covered by the surplus include $280,000 for the local government collective insurance fund covering leaky building claims, $200,000 to meet market-based salary changes, $100,000 bad debt provision and $100,000 reduced interest income.

The financial results are due to be confirmed next month after external audit.

The council achieved or exceeded 74 per cent of its goals, with 9.4 per cent being achieved in part. External factors outside Environment Waikato’s control, such as having to wait on the outcome of environment court decisions and budget or resource constraints were key reasons for targets not being met.

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