New report paints grim picture for Rattler
THE Mary Valley Rattler's first nine months on the track has ended with a $549,000 loss, leaving the heritage venture further in the red.
The Rattler Railway Company's latest financial reports lodged with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission reveal the controversial Gympie Regional Council-owned venture now has a net liability of $884,000 thanks to the loss.
It is more than double the $335,000 liability reported in 2017-18 when the heritage venture had still to return to service.
The half-million dollar loss comes despite the RRC reporting more than $3 million of gross income for the 2018-19 financial year.
This was driven by $1.58 million in goods and services sold, including $932,000 in ticket sales and $656,000 cafe and retail sales (which made a $355,000 gross profit from trading).
The train also received $1.38 million in grants, including $841,000 for the restoration of locomotive 967 and rolling stock.
However this was offset by $2.6 million in costs for the year.
The biggest slice of the cost pie was taken by staff with $1.45 million spent on employee benefits.
This included $1.26 million in wages and salaries, up $200,000 on the previous year.
The company's full-time equivalent staff also doubled from 10.41 in 2017-18 (before the train was running) to 23 in 2018-19.
Full-time employees are up from 12 to 15, part-time employees have increased from 12 to 16 and casual staff dropped from 28 to 23.
The estimated number of volunteers soared from 96 to 150.
A further $1.14 million for rail-related expenses also dragged the train's finances into the red.
The RRC's borrowings now sit at $1.17 million, including a $1.1 million loan from the council - although $50,000 of this was repaid in October, after the reporting period.
The financial report said the company's net liability meant "the ability … to continue as a going concern, including its ability to pay its debts as and when they fall due, needs to be considered".
Its ability to do so was "dependent" on its ability to achieve ongoing council support and generating future profits.
The former was boosted by a letter of comfort from the council to "unconditionally and irrevocably provide the company with adequate financial support to 30 June 2022, either in the form of a contribution, of a loan, or another form of support so as to ensure the company's continuity.
The $549,000 loss is $414,000 more than was initially forecast for the train's first year of operations in the 2016 business case.
In the document the Rattler was expected to lose $175,000, thanks to a predicted $918,000 revenue being offset by $1.09 million in operating expenses.
In August an independently commissioned report said the train's return will inject $10 million into the Gympie economy and has generated 74-ongoing jobs in the region.
The report was compiled by Earthcheck, which also assembled the 2016 business case for the train's return.