Covid costs spiral

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By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Covid-19’s lockdown could tear more than $10 million from Greater Dandenong Council’s bottom line, according to a council report.

This significantly outstrips the council’s budgeted $7.3 million contingency fund made in June – which had assumed “a return to business as normal” by October.

The unanticipated stage four restrictions, which have run since 2 August, will “severely impact” on the council.

In August alone, parking machine revenue dropped by 83 per cent.

Dandenong Market will be the source of a near $3 million hit in rent waivers and foregone revenue.

The council may defer capital works projects, while the contingency fund is “highly likely” used to plug lost revenue.

On 14 September, councillors were set to vote on drawing an extra $330,000 from the contingency fund – to extend its material aid program and its waiver of interest on outstanding rates.

The anticipated revenue losses include nearly $5 million “beyond the council’s control” such as parking permits and metres, planning application fees, and the hire of Drum Theatre and civic facilities.

This also includes $1.35 million less in parking fines.

On top of that, the council has invested $5.4 million in Covid relief – such as rates rebates, waivers and $330,000 material aid – in 2019-’20 and 2020-’21.

With material aid funds “fast running out”, the council will consider an extra $160,000 to the program.

Greater Dandenong has not received a reply for its request for a State Government grant to extend the service.

“Community demand for the service (is) still at its maximum need,” the report states.

“This report recommends that Council allocate additional funds to continue to provide food to those in the most need.”

Meanwhile, at least 930 ratepayers have so far applied for a $200 rates rebate due to claiming Jobseeker.

The council anticipates many further applications up to 30 November with the reduction of Jobseeker and Jobkeeper payments.

So far, Greater Dandenong had approved 656 applications at a cost of $131,200, with a further 274 to be processed.

A further $17,289 in rates hardship waivers were given to ratepayers who were not on Jobseeker.

More than 10,700 pensioners received $100 waivers – at a cost of $1.07 million.

The council also froze sports ground hire charges (at a cost of $114,000), commercial rents at council-owned buildings ($285,000), community facility rents ($22,000), Dandenong Basketball Stadium rent ($182,000) and Dandenong Market vendor rents ($1.5 million).

“Under Stage 4 large parts of Dandenong Market will remain closed and traders will need ongoing support to remain trading with reduced visitation numbers,” the report stated.

“It is not expected that (Dandenong Market Proprietary Limited) will be in a position to pay Council any financial return for 2020-‘21 at a cost to Council of a further $1.447 million.”

 

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