New tool gives insight into towns’ financial positions

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Municipalities and their residents have a new tool that gives a snapshot of the financial health of a municipality, including revenue, budget and capital assets.

The Financial Condition Index (FCI) was launched May 15, by the Department of Municipal Affairs and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM).

"Each municipality has its own unique circumstances and the index is a tool municipal leaders can use to highlight issues, support plans for mitigating risks and help plan for the future," said Mark Furey, Minister of Municipal Affairs. "The index ensures the financial information of each municipality is transparent and is based on facts and analysis."

The index was developed after a recommendation of the Towns Task Force and was worked on by Municipal Affairs, the UNSM and the Association of Municipal Administrators.

"The Towns Task Force recognized the need for municipalities to have a serious discussion about the future," said Kentville Mayor David Corkum, president of UNSM. "There are many demands on municipalities for new and improved services. This tool will help councils and their communities understand the financial implications of their decisions."

The index for each municipality looks at how it gets its revenue and how it budgets for municipal priorities. There are 15 indicators that show a municipality's score, the average for its class (rural municipality and town) and the threshold, which is an achievement benchmark. Each municipality has reviewed and approved its data and provided information to explain certain indicators, unique circumstances and trends.

 “This is a tool that will assist greatly with strategic municipal planning, informed decision making and also adds the important element of increased transparency regarding municipal finances,” said New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan.

“New Glasgow is also pleased to offer comment on our indicators calculated on data up to March 31, 2012, as part of our ongoing commitment for accessible and transparent communications with our taxpayers and the general public. This is also a great example of an important way that the province and municipalities can work together to strengthen governance best practices. It is also a very useful reference tool providing a broad scope of financial information sources in one document. It is for financial purposes and does not evaluate overall performance, service levels or management.”

In the majority of areas ranked, New Glasgow was above threshold and average town rankings. In the areas they were ranked poorer, it was directly linked to the payout the town had to do for the PANS pension plan.

Westville Mayor Roger MacKay said he sees the index as a valuable tool to see areas they might need to improve, although he said some of the areas that are ranked are outside of a town’s control.

“It’s a guide basically,” MacKay said. “It certainly can show you things you kind of have to improve.”

The index is available at http://novascotia.ca/dma/finance/indicator/fci.asp

More recent data will be released over the coming year. 

Organizations: Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Towns

Geographic location: New Glasgow, Kentville, Westville

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