Wollongong City Council has revealed it spent less than half of what was required to maintain the city's public assets last financial year.
Figures to be presented to next Monday's council meeting show the council allocated $21 million to upgrading ageing infrastructure in 2011-12, less than half the amount needed to offset a $46 million depreciation of assets.
The financial statements reveal the council underspent in three out of four key areas - building repairs, stormwater maintenance and transport upgrades, including bridges, footpaths and cycleways.
Only recreational assets, such as pools, playgrounds, sports field and picnic shelters, received enough funds to meet yearly maintenance targets.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery yesterday said the council's big asset base and limited income meant upgrading the city's infrastructure often came down to competing priorities.
He said the council was well placed financially in the short to medium term (10-20 years), but increasing expectations for local government to provide more and more services and infrastructure presented long-term funding challenges.
"If we were to meet the expectations of the community with what we're collecting now in terms of rates and charges, it's not a sustainable position."
The financial figures show the council's total income last year was $238.5 million and its total expenditure was $232.6 million, leaving a $5.9 million operating surplus (post capital grants and developer contributions).
The council collected $114 million from rates and almost $27 million from waste and stormwater management services.
Staff wages proved the biggest expense at $93.6 million, while materials and contracts cost the council $41.6 million.
Wollongong City Council income for 2011-12: $238.5 million, including:
Council tourist parks: $4.9million
Beaton Park and Lakeside Leisure Centre: $2.2million
Parking fines: $1.9million
Parking meters: $1.2million
Wollongong City Council expenses for 2011-12: $232.6million, including:
Staff wages: $93.6million
Street lighting: $2.9million
State government contributions/levies: $15.1million
Lord mayor/councillor wages: $346,000