The Shire’s finance wing has acknowledged COVID-19 disruption and knock-on effects to supplies and the availability of contractors is likely to see another major budget rollover this financial year. Answering questions last week from Shire of Augusta-Margaret River president Paula Cristoffanini, new corporate performance manager Mel Aylett said the true picture would not be known until the close of the financial year. Capital works spending of $4.9 million was scheduled between now and June, though a question mark still hung over the final outcome. “We do anticipate a net under-spend,” Ms Aylett said. Last month, the Times reported an external auditor found the Shire’s ongoing failure to produce a balanced annual budget without rolling over unspent money was a risk factor in the local government’s ability to cover operating costs. The review followed Times reports that the Shire’s net budget position relied heavily on delayed capital works projects and external grant funding balances, which instead helped cover operating costs. The auditor said the Shire failed to meet the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ recommended metric for the past three years, and for annual finance reports since 2014-15. The latest Shire financial report showed the rocky economic climate was affecting many service areas and earnings on reserves had also taken a slight hit from low interest rates. “At 31 December 2021, the Shire’s financial performance is exceeding budget projections for liquidity and the net operating result,” the report said. “This is attributable to under budget capital and operating expenditure and over budget operating revenue.” Revenue was up slightly above $1 million more than expected and staff wages were about 3 per cent lower than budgeted, while overall operating expenditure was a whopping $2.6 million under budget. These factors contributed to a $19.076 million budget surplus as of January, though many projects were programmed for the coming months to June 30. The report noted: “$0.831 million capital expenditure was incurred during the month (of January), however optimistic budget profiling has meant that capital expenditure was $5.239 million or 69.6 per cent under budget.” Delays to forthcoming regional road safety funding and delays to construction milestones for the Margaret River Hockey Club’s new half-court facility were significant factors.