Cessnock City Council boasts a big budget bonus and host of ambitious capital works projects

BUDGET BONANZA: Cessnock Mayor Cr Bob Pynsent.
BUDGET BONANZA: Cessnock Mayor Cr Bob Pynsent.

Cessnock City Council is flush with cash after securing more than $30 million in grants and funding which has set the foundations for a budget surplus and host of ambitious capital works projects.

The news has been revealed in the council's Draft Operational Plan and Draft Budget for the 2021-22 financial year.

Mayor Bob Pynsent said council was extremely successful applying for grants for a number of reasons.

"The high quality of applications being produced by our staff that clearly meet the criteria," he said.

"Additionally council has already identified projects it would like to see grant funded and ensures we are in the position to attract funding when the appropriate grant is announced. Council's proactive and strategic approach is a winning combination."

Council secured $21,694,686 in capital grants and contributions, $11,856,232 in operating grants and contributions - a total of $33,550,918.

Cr Pynsent said the most pleasing aspect for him personally is the council's $35 million infrastructure budget.

"This is a key achievement and this investment in our community infrastructure is significant and will have an impact across the LGA," he said.

"As the community continues to grow as does their expectations and needs around infrastructure. This budget will enable us to delivers some of those much needed upgrades and improvements our community have told us they want to see."

Cr Pynsent said council's number one priority is the delivery of high quality services and facilities.

"Whether its roads, parks, waste management, libraries or local cemeteries, council is committed to a high level of customer service.

"Roads will always be a major concerns for the community and council with our large and ageing road network. Council will invest $12 million in local and regional roads," he said.

A total of $10 million will be invested in the renewal of local roads and $2 million on regional roads. A barrier to upgrading and improving roads is the cost, however, council will continue to identify opportunities to secure funding for critical upgrades.

During the next financial year the big ticket items for roads include the upgrade of Old Maitland Road and a section of Wollombi Road, Millfield. The bridge construction program is valued at a healthy $2.5 million. This will include the replacement of Yango Creek Bridge in Wollombi, Kline Street Bridge in Weston and the demolition of Cunneens Bridge in Wollombi.

However as a result of such a significant capital works program sustainability of assets and services will be a challenge. "As we provide more facilities and services to the community a direct result is the increased need for funding to maintain these new assets," Cr Pynsent said.

"Over the last decade sound financial decision making has seen council maintain a solid financial position. Council seeks to maintain a balanced budget strategy with a view of financial sustainability. The budgets seek to maintain existing services and facilities, whilst undertaking the maximum amount of works for the benefit of the community," Cr Pynsent said.

"Grant funding opportunities are then sought to bring forward projects that may not otherwise be undertaken without moving existing funding from planned projects. Over the last few years Council's capital expenditure has increased largely due to Council's success in seeking grant funding."

Council is now calling for public feedback on the draft 2021-22 Operational Plan and draft Budget for the next year. Despite the economic impact of COVID-19 council has managed an impressive $35 million Capital Works Program and is in surplus.

Council's general manager Lotta Jackson encouraged the community to provide feedback. "The voices of our residents are critical to ensure we're meeting their needs. It's going to be another busy year delivering our near-record infrastructure program to our growing community. The community will be pleased to know this includes $12 million for local and regional roads."

Highlights of the 2021-22 draft Budget include: Cessnock Airport upgrade, installation of the Cessnock Pool Splash Pad, over $10 million on the renewal of local roads and $2 million on regional roads, upgrades of Old Maitland Road and a section of Wollombi Road, Millfield. The bridge construction program is valued at a healthy $2.5 million. This will include the replacement of Yango Creek Bridge in Wollombi, Kline Street Bridge in Weston and the demolition of Cunneens Bridge in Wollombi.

The draft plan is on public exhibition. To view it and undertake a quick survey visit council's website.