By-elections to replace two councillors who resigned last week are likely to cost council at least $170,000.
The NSW Electoral Commission has estimated that the by-elections in two wards (1 and 2) will be about half of the total cost of the September 2012 council elections, which came in at $345,000.
Robert Stock and Geordie Williamson (pictured below) resigned just under two years into their four-year terms. They cited concerns over financial management and believed council was no longer representing the community's interests.
But Don McGregor, another Ward 1 councillor, said the resignations painted a picture of financial chaos that did not exist.
"It is unhelpful to suggest that council is not responding to the financial challenges facing the city," he said. "It is particularly regrettable to say that council's financial management was something that is not being addressed at the same time we are asking the community to indicate what level of service they want and what they are prepared to pay for it."
Clr McGregor pointed out that the latest six-month financial report from council showed that it had achieved a surplus of $800,000 and that the "long-term financial strategy is having an effect".
"I want to reassure the community that we are managing the finances of the city properly. That is no way to deny that we have serious challenges but we are facing them."
He also had a message for anyone who might be considering nominating for the two vacant positions, saying council was not the "chaos" that the former councillors had suggested.
"Those considering putting themselves forward in the by-election should do so confident that they will, if successful, be joining a group of like-minded people dedicated to serving their community."
Reaction to the resignations has been mixed (see letters pages 8-9).
Former Greens councillor Kerrin O'Grady said it was concerning to lose two independent voices on council.
"I really respect them for having the courage to speak up and take a stand on matters of financial sustainability," she said.
"What I saw were two decent intelligent blokes who were prepared to have a go. They were doing the job they were elected to do and were prepared to ask tough questions, not just keep quiet and settle for being popular."
Serving councillor Chris Van der Kley, from Ward 2, said: "As a councillor, when you stand for election you make a commitment for the four years on council and I think it's irresponsible for councillors to resign just because they have a dispute with an issue. You make a commitment to the community and now it's going to cost us between $150,000 and $170,000 to hold by-elections."