AMHERST – Amherst is in fine shape financially, says its chief administrative officer.
Speaking to Amherst town council’s final meeting before the Oct. 20 election, Greg Herrett presented a financial report on the last fiscal year, indicating the town finished 2011-12 with a surplus of $303,084.
“I am pleased to report that we have had another year of solid financial results,” Herrett said. “In summary, we ended the year in the black and any operating surplus was transferred to the operating reserve as is suggested by the Nova Scotia Financial Reporter and Accounting Manual.”
It’s the fourth consecutive year Amherst has recorded a significant surplus. Last year, the town had a surplus of $383,116 of which $359,000 was transferred to reserves.
Herrett said the town’s water utility recorded a $96,000 surplus.
“We are on track to eliminate, in four or five years, the accumulated deficit of $429,767 in the utility created a number of years by aggressive debt reduction,” Herrett said.
On the revenue side, Herrett said the town brought in $16.35 million on a budget of $16.3 million, while the town spent $13.9 million compared to a budget of $14.4 million. He said every town department came in under budget.
The only significant variation from the budget was the loss on assessment appeals that came in about $90,000 over budget.
The town spent just under $11 million on capital projects, with $6 million of that spent on the waste water treatment plant that will officially open Oct. 11. It is only on the treatment plant that the town incurred any new debt.
The remaining capital budget was financed from reserves, government grants, gas tax funds or from capital from revenue. That $4.8 million was made up mainly of the downtown project ($2.877 million), capital paving ($384,000) and sanitary sewer work ($352,000), along with a number of smaller projects.
In terms of longer-term debt, Herrett said the town owes about $6 million on various capital projects in the general capital fund and about $615,000 in the water utility.
“A financial statistic of interest is always the ratio of debt service to own source revenue. This year the ratio is in a very healthy range at 6.77 per cent. Service Nova Scotia’s benchmark is 15 per cent,” Herrett said. “Even when we finalize the financing and add approximately $4 million in borrowing next year for the waste water treatment facility our ratio is projected to be 8.96 per cent.”
Herrett said the town has $1.9 million set aside in capital reserve for future capital projects. The capital reserve has about $1.5 million set aside for various purposes as well as an allowance for a rainy day.