A budget surplus will be available for Wodonga's new council after some cost-saving success

THE new Wodonga Council will have $2.2 million in surplus cash, but staff are recommending it not go towards lower rate rises.

The figure equates to the amount not spent from the 2015-16 council budget.

The city’s finance manager Narelle Klein and accountant Michael Caton credited the excess to reducing expenditure, scoring government grants and finishing projects below budget.

“Improvements in workplace safety have had a positive impact on productivity and contributed to further reductions in the Workcover premium,” the pair reported.

“Council has also utilised internal staff on capital projects wherever possible, which has contributed to lower employee costs in works.

“Higher recycling rates have contributed to lower waste management costs.

“In addition a strong risk management approach has contributed to insurances being lower than expected.”

Changed conditions: The approach to the Forrest Mars Avenue bridge pictured after a downpour.

Changed conditions: The approach to the Forrest Mars Avenue bridge pictured after a downpour.

The pair’s report, which was presented to this week’s council meeting, urged the council not to retain the money to fund lower rate rises in future years.

They also advised not using the $2.2 million to reduce scheduled borrowings or giving it to unfunded projects in the current or future budgets.

Instead the council opted to follow Ms Klein and Mr Caton’s recommendation to let the newly-elected administration consider its use when it meets in November.

Former mayor Rodney Wangman declined to say how it should be used, but noted the need for a springboard.

“For the next council I hope that they start in a position of considerable strength and be able to seek to do the things that they wish to do for the betterment of Wodonga,” Cr Wangman said.

He said the surplus was reflective of a better budgetary process.

“It is pleasing...in the last couple of years this council has been able to land our projected budgets against our expenditure almost on the line each and every year,” Cr Wangman said.

“It was our experience many years ago there would be about a 70 per cent spend against what was budgeted.

“That's history, the practice now is much better and much closer to the mark each time.”

The $2.2 million is subject to $350,000 going towards an urgent upgrade of Forrest Mars Avenue which requires a new concrete deck to prevent irreparable damage.

Bright-based North East Civil Construction has been awarded a $290,812 tender for the work on the 1972 span which is subject to 12-tonne load limit because of its condition.

An amount of $59,187 has been earmarked for contingencies such as altering approach alignments.

The project is expected to be completed by December.

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