Mayor Russell Webb has issued a stark warning about the sustainability of Tamworth Regional Council's financial future.
While finalising the council's budget for the next financial year at its ordinary meeting last night, Cr Webb said the financial sustainability of all 128 local councils in NSW is "in question."
"Over the next 12 months there's going to have to be some hard decisions made, and I don't want to hide from that," Cr Webb said, referencing a multi-million dollar decline in cash reserves council is expecting across next four years.
"If we want to grow and make our community a nice place to live, we're going to have to have some hard conversations," the mayor said.
While specific details were not mentioned, councillors at the meeting mentioned the possibility of cutting services or re-evaluating development projects.
Cr Webb said throughout the coming year the council will engage with the community to figure out the best way forward.
Many councillors echoed that sentiment.
"We have got a long way to go as a council in terms of our revenue. We're obviously going to be having conversations with the community about that in the future," Cr Brooke Southwell said.
"We've got to have the contingencies and there will be variations. We've seen that already. I believe we're going to have a lot of that over the next 12 months because we're heading into an unknown time," Cr Judy Coates said.
Councillor Phil Betts said the gap between inflation (5.6 per cent) and council's rate rise (3.7 per cent) "concerns" him as the "cumulative" effect of that gap could threaten council's ability to deliver services.
"Our budget is under pressure and will continue to be under pressure," Cr Helen Tickle said.
"Sometimes we're going to have to make tough decisions to make sure people's services remain some of the best that there are," Cr Steve Mears said.
Cr Mears also said a "fine balance" will need to be struck when deciding how to proceed, citing how low wage growth and cost-of-living concerns are hurting Tamworth residents across the region.
Ultimately the Annual Plan and Budget, Revenue Policy, and Fees and Charges for 2023/24 were all approved by council, with multiple councillors thanking senior staff for their hard work in helping to deliver a modest cash surplus which will help buffer council's defences against the oncoming financial storm.
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