Wagga City Council's push for an economic and cultural boom could see its infrastructure spending jump by more than $30 million in the next financial year.
Council's forecast expenditure includes $85.7 million in capital project allocations on big ticket items such as $41 million on the Riverina intermodal freight and logistics hub, almost $10 million on upgrades at Wagga Airport and $6.8 million on the Riverside redevelopment.
Councillors voted at their meeting on Monday night to adopt a draft version of the $216.9 million 2021-22 budget, $131.2 million of which will cover wages, public services and other operating costs.
Every $100 in the proposed budget includes approximately $6.15 for roads, footpath and drainage maintenance, $17.60 for parks, recreation and culture and $39.76 for major works and construction.
However, council budget papers state the "potential uncertainty" around some of its major projects may have a "significant impact" on its long term financial plan, which has already forecast an annual deficit for nine consecutive years after 2020-21.
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Mayor Greg Conkey said the city's "growing pains" were a good thing to have and that a Wagga would benefit from big infrastructure projects in the long term.
He said council could handle its long list of major works because it had secured grant funding from the NSW government for many of them.
"These are really great projects. We've got the funds to do it so let's get in and do it," he said.
"The issue that we've been having is that we've had infrastructure budgets but we've had some issues about delivery. There's so much work to do that we're having issues with delivery."
Cr Conkey said the council was in a good position financially, having almost recovered from a significant $4.2 million hit to this year's budget because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We're still by far the biggest and best rural city in NSW so we're far better off than a lot of councils," he said.
"We need to be careful of our budget and we probably need to look at other ways that we can increase our revenue and also cap costs."
"A challenge is maintenance: infrastructure, roads, obviously. As we grow, it's going to be more and more costly to run council."
If the council is unable to raise more revenue through avenues such as increasing rates, it might have no choice but to scrap some community services to cope with a maintenance backlog of more than $86 million.
"There are tough decisions to be made but that's what elected bodies are elected to do," Cr Conkey said.
The draft budget and long-term financial plan will go on public exhibition until May 25, which Wagga City Council general manager Peter Thompson said would give people an idea of how council is proposing to spend its money.
"Even though the long-term financial plan predicts a deficit budget, the goal for the next 12 months will be to deliver a balanced budget for next year. We know the task that we need to achieve," Mr Thompson said.
"We just plan for 10 years in advance so we know what's coming down the pipeline. I would hope we won't present a deficit budget next year but that will require work over the next 12 months to find savings."
Mr Thompson said more potential ratepayers moving to the city would not be enough to "turn things around" and that council would have to consider cutting services or coming up with other ways to raise revenue.
"We're really looking for new income streams or ways of earning income, or losing things that cost us money to run, such as running the airport," he said.
"We do have some ideas here at the moment. But nothing at the moment that's to a point where we'd articulate it publicly and we'd probably [need to] consult on it first."