Amherst, Cumberland to share finance departments?

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Consultant to examine cost benefits

AMHERST – Amherst and Cumberland County’s plan to share services is moving closer to reality.

Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter and Amherst Mayor Robert Small sign an agreement to hire a consultant to explore the costs, benefits and potential design of a combined finance department for both municipalities.

AMHERST – Amherst and Cumberland County’s plan to share services is moving closer to reality.

The town and the county announced Wednesday their approval of a project to explore the cost, benefits and potential design of a combined finance department for the two municipalities.

“For the past few months we have been talking to the Municipality of Cumberland about the possibility of having a shared service finance department and we have progressed to the point where we think it’s worthwhile to hire a consultant to examine the issues for us,” Amherst’s CAO Greg Herrett told a special council meeting. “In Nova Scotia today the lay of the land is changing and there’s an expectation to take every opportunity to explore efficiencies, create capacity and provide value for our citizens.”

Herrett said while there are some differences between the municipalities’ finance and corporate services departments the services they provide are basically the same.

The study is expected to cost $100,000 and the town and the county will be asking Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to pay half the cost. He said the consulting work would cost $15,000 to $20,00 with the remainder being transition costs, software, hardware, data migration and training.

Herrett stressed the study will not result in any immediate job losses with efficiencies being attained over time by attrition.

“This is not about annexation or amalgamation. In fact, current employees through the protocol that was approved will be protected and any long-term human resources savings would be attained through attrition,” the CAO said.

The initiative is part of both municipal units’ commitment to work closer together to look for efficiencies that will benefit residents of both the town and the county.

Financial management and accounting at the municipal level is becoming more complex with increasingly stringent reporting requirements and Herrett said both municipal units understand the need to work closer together to ensure they have the most competent staff not only looking after taxpayers money today, but planning for its best use over the next 20 years – recognizing increased service level and infrastructure demands being put on the two units each year.

“We are confident that the time is right to be a leader in Nova Scotia respecting financial management at the municipal level,” Amherst Mayor Robert Small said. “Amherst and Cumberland County have successfully shared a number of services in the past, but we must not be complacent, and must continue to look for better avenues so residents know we are being wise stewards of the money they have entrusted us with.”

Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter is happy with the announcement.

“This is just one more way Cumberland County can work towards providing its residents with better value for its tax dollars, while maintaining all of its staff levels today, with a view to financial cost savings in the future. I look forward to working with the town in the months and years ahead as we tackle our fiscal challenges, while seeking opportunities to grow our communities,” the warden said.

Both municipalities agreed last fall to an Inter-Municipal Co-operation Principles Document that would see both municipalities look for more ways to co-operate and reduce duplication.

This is the first formal agreement between the two units in the spirit of principles document.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Organizations: Municipal Co

Geographic location: Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

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