COVID-19 presents problems for Denmark Shire budget as road infrastructure looks to be a priority

Kellie BalaamAlbany Advertiser
Denmark Shire Council Administration Centre.
Camera IconDenmark Shire Council Administration Centre. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

Road upgrades will be a major focus of the Shire of Denmark’s budget for the next financial year, with $5.9 million earmarked for infrastructure.

The council held a special meeting on Tuesday in which the 2020-21 budget was adopted seven votes to nil.

The Shire has been successful in gaining about $5.4m of external government funding to undertake a $7.03m program of capital works.

Expenditure on road infrastructure is a major component and is in line with the council’s strategy to increase investment in road preservation.

Some of the key projects set to be undertaken throughout the year include the $700,000 Lights Beach carpark and toilets upgrade, Main Roads WA bridges and road projects totalling more than $4 million and a $200,000 Rail Trail Bridge project.

Denmark Shire chief executive David Schober said the 2020-21 budget had been the most challenging to prepare in recent times.

“We started the process back in March, so when COVID-19 hit, almost daily and weekly we had to change some assumptions as things adjusted so we took a little longer by actually endorsing it to see how the virus played out,” he said.

“The capital works program is heavily geared towards infrastructure with a large component on roads and the Lights Beach precinct, so it will be a busy year for us who typically wouldn’t handle anywhere near that volume of work.”

Rates will also be frozen across the Shire in a bid to help reduce the impacts of COVID-19 on the community.

The exception to this is where improvements or developments have occurred on the relevant property which have increased the rateable value.

In light of the pandemic, the council has recently adopted its financial hardship policy, which provides flexibility for any ratepayer, business or community group suffering financial stress.

Denmark Shire president Ceinwen Gearon said this year’s budget would focus on stimulating the local economy.

“While this latest budget goes some way to easing the financial pressure on ratepayers, we understand the difficulties many people are facing and encourage you to reach out for support,” she said.

“With the new flexible options now available for rates payments, we will help you wherever we can.” The Shire will also carry forward a $200,000 closing budget surplus.

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