Friday, November 26, 2010 at 2:24PM
Bill Barclay

A major concern held over from the previous Board and Council relates to the Thames Urban General Purposes Reserve Account or TUGPRA as it is known. If Thames members are not vigilant, they will lose control of this account in the face of envy and lack of concern for the rights of Thames ratepayers demonstrated in the past by other councillors.

The account has its origins way back in the 1800’s when central government settled   endowment property for the benefit of small councils like Thames that were facing huge demands with little rate income.  This fund was augmented by proceeds from the sale of milk treatment plant, the abattoir and power company shares. To cut the story short, the properties, or what remains of them – mainly in the Te Aroha area currently bring in some $400,000 mainly as the result of recent re-valuations on 20 year dairy farm leases.

Various rules have been imposed over the years on the use of this income, and the capital reserve that has resulted from revenue residue. The previous Board demanded details of expenditure over the years so that it could make rational decisions about the use of the fund, particularly in regard to substantial current and future commitments to the re-building of the swimming pool, and to meet the demand for better sports facilities.

The more the Board demanded such a report, the more murky the matter became, particularly following the production of a totally indequate and opaque income and expenditure statement in 2008. In addition, there had been inconsistent decisions regarding the use of the fund to undertake major purchases and repairs of buildings, including the RSA building over the years. There seems little doubt that the fund was used for purposes other that originally intended during the period when it was under the control of a Commissioner during the 1930's.

Of even greater concern, was the way in which the fund was used by a previous Board to subsidize local rates through contributions to Parks & Reserves. This was supposed to have been a one off, but as often happens, it became set in place in budgets for succeeding years. When the last Board found out about this it instructed staff to implement weaning off this subsidy over a three year period with of course an adverse, but manageable effect on rates. This instruction was never carried out.

The Board instructed staff at the beginning of 2010 to undertake a full review of all relevant documentation, and report back ASAP. It is understood that records were found to be severely deficient or non-existent. Nevertheless, we were informed around June that the report was extensive, and informative, but it was never presented to the board despite repeated requests. It apparently languished because it was regarded as “controversial”.

The Board was informed at its inaugural meeting on 15 November that the report had been sent back to the Council Planning Manager for re-writing. Further, the Board was advised that the re-written report would be sent directly to Council rather than the Board that had requested it. It should be of  considerable concern that what should have a straightforward account of what happened to this fund over the years has been handled in this manner.

It is critically important for Thames ratepayers interests in this fund are protected, and that staff are held to account for the management of the fund over the years. We will watch with great interest to see what happens should the report finally be tabled at the 8 December Council meeting.

Update on Sunday, December 5, 2010 at 10:56AM by Registered CommenterBill Barclay

There is no mention of the this report on the 8 December Council Agenda. I wonder why?

Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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