MAYOR Sajowitz put forward a motion in April to take out an internal loan from the Town Improvement (TI) fund, boasting a healthy balance of $1 million, to fund the Community Hub - a somewhat ominous term sometimes exchanged with "library extensions". Preliminary plans shown to residents at the May meeting look like a last-minute add-on similar to a lean-to?
Why did we have to take out a loan?
Where has the money gone?
Without eyes rolling, residents can clearly see: The statements made in the end of term report in 2017 declaring on several pages Oberon Council was successful in obtaining a significant grant for the Community Hub, securing $800,000 in funding.
A noble and noteworthy achievement for the previous term of councillors supported by council staff preparing numerous submissions leading absolutely nowhere. End of term report shows: "Major Projects Outcomes - successful significant grant project includes Community Hub linking library with Community Centre $800k."
Fast forward to March 2019 and the discerning reader can find in the Quarterly Business Review Statement (QBRS) that $370,000 is available for the hub.
The significant grant contained in this $370,000 amount is a $120,000 grant from Libraries NSW dating back to 2015, which Oberon Council now desperately tries to keep come hell or high water.
The obvious question to be asked is this: If we had $800,000 in June 2017 and on July 1, 2018, exactly 12 months later, we only had $370,000, where has the money gone? Not a small sum! Surely $430,000 can't just go missing?
Noteworthy is also that the $370,000 in the March QBRS contains apparently two allocations from the TI fund, one of $120,000 and another of $100,000. The major contributor to the major grant funding received is actually us ratepayers, or more precisely, those ratepayers living in town who contribute $485,000 per year towards the "Improvement Fund", boasting a healthy balance of $1m.
Did Oberon Council overlook a small but pertinent detail in the definition and purpose for the TI levy, "... which is a special rate levied on properties with access to facilities within the town area of Oberon"?
Will the lean-to Community Hub boast two entrances, one for town residents who paid for the hub through the TI levy and one for the rest of the LGA?
Should the TI levy be used to prop up grants Oberon Council could not obtain? So far, $220,000 paid by town folks and more to come? Should the fund be used to pay for a clean-up of scrap metal at the Burraga and Black Springs transfer stations?
Why Oberon Council has not spent the funds on the rightful purpose of improving the town ought to be asked separately; harbouring $1m to then crying poor for not affording any Christmas decorations is hiding what should be transparent to all.