Amherst’s financial picture remains bright

Audit shows town has healthy surplus, strong reserves

Darrell Cole
Published on September 3, 2014
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.

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