Council budget blows

Busted budget: The new art gallery to be housed in the Macaria building has doubled its initial budget and will now cost more than $1 million. Picture: Sam Venn
Busted budget: The new art gallery to be housed in the Macaria building has doubled its initial budget and will now cost more than $1 million. Picture: Sam Venn

Camden Council’s budget for the Macaria art gallery has blown out to more than double its projected cost.

The original cost of the gallery was expected to be $500,000 but a budget report submitted to council last week showed the cost would now exceed $1 million.

Camden councillor Paul Farrow said he was “disappointed” the budget for the gallery had grown and was critical of staff who had underestimated the cost of the building’s refurbishment.

“Ten per cent variance [on the budget] is okay but 100 per cent is a cause for concern,” he said.

“From the ratepayers’ point of view there needs to be accountability.”

The council will pay for the blow-out using $408,000 from its asset renewal reserve, with an additional $112,000 to be used from savings on other projects.

Cr Farrow said he had concerns when reports for the initial budget were submitted in December last year.

“It’s okay for council to say there is money in the bank but there are a lot of other projects we need done as well,” he said.

“I’ve been assured there won’t be further expenditure on the Macaria gallery.

“Council staff don’t have expertise in art galleries but I would have assumed all costs would have been in the first report.”

A Camden Council spokeswoman said the budget was based on expert consultant advice.

“From the outset, council recognised that this was a unique project involving a heritage building and engaged expert consultants before works commenced to advise on what was required to convert it into an art gallery,” she said.

“The consultant’s expert advice was presented to Council and was used to the set the project budget.

“Council was also advised that a further report may be required to consider any additional costs in the future.”

The necessary improvements under the new budget include specialist lighting and air-conditioning systems, adjustments to the internal layout and upgraded amenities.

The Narellan Sports Hub budget has also blown out by $760,000. The council spokeswoman attributed this to extreme wet weather conditions in March.

“The ultimate project cost of stage one is $10.93 million, which is highly competitive compared to the average prices tendered for this project.”