Taranaki Regional Council staff will be involved in more virtual meetings and less work-related training and travelling as the council looks to save $320,000 in the 2020-2021 financial year.
The council has agreed a zero rates increase for the second successive year and says this can be achieved by an across-the-board drop in expenditure, and either reducing or deferring work programmes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A previous draft budget had set a 3.8 per cent increase for next financial year rates, TRC chairman David MacLeod said.
MacLeod said the council had “trimmed and tuned” its spending because of Covid 19 to keep impacts on the community and ratepayers to an “absolute minimum”.
“Overall we’re taking a ‘business as planned’ approach based on the public consultation and decision-making that went into the 2018/2028 Long-Term Plan, and the 2019/2020 Annual Plan,” he said.
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Among the savings will be personnel budgets, with $118,000 less spent on training and travel, councillors were told at a full meeting on Tuesday.
The council will spend $40,000 less on resource investigations, with the budget cut to $80,000, the meeting was told.
Environmental groups will also lose all, or some, of the financial support the council gave annually.
A $20,000 grant to the Willow and Poplar Trust, and $10,000 support towards the Ballance Environment Awards, have been removed, while Wild for Taranaki will receive $70,000 less.
Funding towards New Plymouth’s Puke Ariki and South Taranaki museums has been reduced from $150,000 to $120,000.
The price of buying plants for riparian schemes would increase by 10 cents, adding $30,000 to revenue.
The council had the choice of removing expenditure from the budgets or increasing revenue in other areas if there was going to be no increase in general rates, the meeting heard.
The regional council’s revenue sources of rates, investments and service charges “were in good shape”.
The council expected its investments return from Port Taranaki, which traded through lockdown, would stay healthy in the short-to-medium term.
TRC chief executive Basil Chamberlain said the council would help ratepayers facing hardship due to the economic downturn.
Covid-19 had caused an impact on the Taranaki economy and the Council needed to be responsive to the financial hardship faced by some ratepayers, the meeting was told.
The council was legally required to have the 2020/2021 annual plan adopted by June 30 which left little time for consultation.
Yarrow Stadium targeted rates remain unchanged with existing loans and commitments still needing funding.
The controversial $50 million stadium works programme is on hold pending a peer review of proposals taking into account changing circumstances.