Amherst’s financial picture remains bright

Darrell Cole
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Audit shows town has healthy surplus, strong reserves

The town's audited financial statement show Amherst remains in good shape financially with a healthy surplus and strong reserves.

The town's audited financial statement show Amherst remains in good shape financially with a healthy surplus and strong reserves.

AMHERST – Amherst’s finances continue to be in a healthy position.

Speaking during a special town council meeting Wednesday, during which the town’s audited financial statements were approved, CAO Greg Herrett said Amherst continues to experience solid financial results by recording surpluses in both the general operating fund and the water utility of $158,227 and $270,087 respectively.

“We are living in a time in Nova Scotia when not all municipalities are on a solid financial footing. We have generated surpluses in both the water and operating funds, most departments are operating at or near budget and the water utility’s deficit has been eliminated,” Herrett told council. “Our long-term debt has increased to $8.9 million but all of that increase relates to the wastewater treatment facility – a long-term project with a stable cash flow.”

On the revenue side, deed transfer taxes were over budget by $148,200, interest on outstanding taxes was over budget by $35,300 and metered sewer charges were under budget $54,000.

On the expense side, wages and benefits were under budget by $309,000 and administrative costs were under budget by $89,000, while building costs mostly related to energy expenses were over budget by $112,000, snow removal was over budget by $87,600, assessment appeals came in at $63,300 more than budgeted, the allowance for doubtful accounts was increased by $79,000 to allow for some unsightly premises charges and bank charges exceeded budget by $23,400.

Herrett said the town’s operating surplus has been transferred to the operating reserve as required while there continues to be an accumulated surplus of $176,293 in the general operating fnd.

In terms of capital, the CAO said Amherst spent $2.42 on various projects with the only addition in borrowing being directly related to the wastewater treatment plant.

While the long-term debt has grown, and the town’s debt service ratio will grow to 7.81 per cent in this fiscal year, Herrett said it’s still well below the provincial benchmark of 15 per cent.

Operating and capital reserves are in good shape, he added, with an operating reserve fund balance of $1.5 million and approximately $1.8 million in the capital reserve, including $550,000 of fire insurance proceeds that will be used to fund construction of a new police facility.

For the first time in many years, Herrett said, the water utility’s expenses came in significantly under budget and a one-time adjustment to the allowance for doubtful accounts resulted in a surplus of $270,000 in the current year.

The water capital fund maintains a cash balance of approximately $1 million and long-term debt of just under $500,000.

Herrett said the town’s financial health was indicated earlier this year in the municipal financial indicators report that was based on 2012 numbers. He said the town has updated those numbers with data from 2013-14 and feels the town’s position is still among the best in the province.

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Doug P.
    September 04, 2014 - 14:42

    One has to remember one very important point here. Politically speaking, "financially healthy" is a relative thing, and in this case, deceptively so. Ill put it this way: If you have 10 people in the bar and 8 of them are stumbling drunk, while the other two are wobbling just a bit less so, are those two people the sober ones? Because you have every local government in debt up to their eyeballs, tax bases shrinking and rates soaring, are the ones who have slightly lower taxes and debt financially strong? When it comes to government at any level, officials and their hirelings simply lie about it and frame it like everything is just great! The gullible gulp it down like laced cool-aid.

  • more of the same
    September 04, 2014 - 13:21

    Amherst benefits from taxes generated and collected from the government funded industrial park and it's big box stores ...They bleed the surrounding areas such as Maccan , River Hebert and Springhill etc...It is the usual case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer . As a result Amherst has all kinds of discretionary money while Springhill went down the tube and other areas get nothing ...The County has a good balance sheet and low taxes but low level of services ... The three remaining towns need to be amalgamated with the County to spread the tax money and services more fairly ...Costs can be reduced by combined administration and frivolous spending for specific areas eliminated ...Amherst has been on some questionable big spending projects last few years while it's neighbours can't afford the basics ...Most Cumberland residents participate in the Amherst economy , therefore, they should benefit from their input ..

  • Billy B
    September 04, 2014 - 11:54

    @ Doug P.. What makes you think amalgamation would be a last effort. Amalgamation can actually be a proactive way to create efficiencies and reduce costs that would allow for efforts/funds to be used to develop our region. It is laughable that you feel Amhersts financial position is comparable to that of Springhills. Contrary to your belief Amherst actually has a solid backbone in its industrial park. why is it that comments tend to be so negative on this site. Here is a good news story and not one positive comment about it. Both the County and Amherst are in a "good" financial position which is not somthing that can be said about many other regions in the province or maritimes for that matter.

    • Doug P.
      September 04, 2014 - 13:48

      Yes, each and every time someone touts the noble intentions and benefits of amalgamation they fail to look at all the past ones which proved no benefit at all. In fact when one examines those who have tried it, they will find that financially speaking, the regional municipalities are in much worse shape after these foolish stabs and starving off years of financial boondoggling. One example that stands out is Cape Breton, which is simply coming apart at the seams. Halifax is another failure, and so is any attempt that has ever been embarked on. The only benefit is to the half witted knaves in office who have borrowed and spent their citizens into near financial slavery. The taxpayers don't benefit at all, in every case taxes simply went up for the newly amalgamated citizens. Such is all political promises. Springhill's collapse was nothing more than an overnight amalgamation due to bankruptcy. Amherst is pretending to be flush with cash all the while tip toeing to the County all the same. You are simply observing two different ways to starve off financial collapse. You can keep the political sales pitches for the so called "benefits" of amalgamation and know that your not ever being told the truth by any elected official.That's not cynical, that's simply telling the truth. Where you see "good news" I see political propaganda. Springhill was in a "good" financial position right up until they dissolved. There are three things certain in life, death, taxes and the men who lie so they can bring about the first two.

  • K.
    September 04, 2014 - 10:42

    if things are that rosy how about patching some potholes around town...

  • Doug P.
    September 04, 2014 - 10:21

    I highly doubt that the true financial picture is as they would like you to think. The plans to merge (amalgamation) with the county suggests otherwise. If one was financially as strong as they boast why merge? If I had to guess, Amherst's true financial position is much closer to Springhill's than the local officials, who are desperate for favorable public opinion, lead you to believe. Ballooning debt and smothering taxation levels collapsed Springhill. The same things are sinking Amherst. The color by numbers sesame street report cards that the province put out are pretty paper based delusions. They make great tabloid journalism.

  • Ej
    September 04, 2014 - 07:25

    Bleed people dry with property tax bills and then brag about how well the town is doing. We hear the same thing every year. Show the people in Amherst some respect and stop wasting money. Put a story in the paper about the extra money being spent on Town Hall.

  • Sparky00
    September 03, 2014 - 21:51

    Yeah! We're the best of the worse! Seriously though, with all of the for sale signs around town, I'd say the financial future may not be as rosy as they are selling.

  • Fred
    September 03, 2014 - 21:06

    The town hall should change the towns finical picture. Wait until we see the final bill for the work being done.