Warrnambool council has started the year $650,000 better off putting it in a "strong financial position" as the city tries to get back on its feet after pandemic lockdowns.
The better-than-expected first quarter has been described as "a good result" by councillors, but it didn't come without job losses and diving income from council-run facilities forced to shut during restrictions.
But while lockdowns have hit the council hard, it has also brought savings at some of the council's loss-making facilities such as Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum.
The bottom line at the tourist facility was $138,000 better than expected for the first three months of the financial year with savings delivered by COVID-19 restriction cuts to its casual workforce that it would have to cover when the venue was open.
And, because the restrictions were not during peak tourist season, the fall in any income was smaller than it could have been.
Funding from the grants commission was also higher than expected - up $68,000 - with tourism factors and population growth driving the increase.
Employee expenses were also down on budget with several vacant positions remaining unfilled which has helped offset some of the income shortfalls.
"There have also been stand downs and reduced casual hours at facilities that have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions," the council said.
Cr Ben Blain said the finances being $650,000 favourable to the current budget forecasts was a good result for the first quarter.
"I do think this will continue to grow as services return and people start moving back into their normal lives and accessing normal services and infrastructure that is supplied by council," Cr Blain said.
He said that even with delays, the major projects under way across the city were on budget.
Cr Debbie Arnott said it seemed to be that the council was in a "good financial position".
"There's no doubt that COVID-19 has impacted income from parking, AquaZone and the lighthouse theatre," she said.
"Although it is not ideal, the council has had to stand down some casual staff or reduce them to minimal hours, and not replacing some staffing positions and leaving some positions vacant until we are a little bit better financially replaced," she said.
Parking fees were down $72,000 on the forecast budget and parking fines were also down by $66,000.
Cr Arnott also said there was a new automated system in the accounts department which would lead to greater efficiency when it was operational.
Councillors had warned then they were in such dire financial straits that without a rate rise it could make the council's bottom line worse in years to come.
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