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Cumberland County fails to meet threshold on six financial indicators set out by province, believes upcoming assessment will show improvement

The Jan. 9 meeting of council included (from left) CAO Rennie Bugley, warden Allison Gillis, and deputy warden Joe van Vulpen.
The Jan. 9 meeting of council included (from left) CAO Rennie Bugley, warden Allison Gillis, and deputy warden Joe van Vulpen. - Dave Mathieson

UPPER NAPPAN, N.S. – Of the 50 municipalities in Nova Scotia, seven were required to submit financial action plans to the Nova Scotia Department of Municipal Affairs, one of those being Cumberland County.

“Any municipality that has six indicators or more that don’t meet the established thresholds for the various indicators have to provide an action plan to municipal affairs to indicate how we’re going to improve on some of our results,” said Andrew MacDonald, director of finance for the municipality.

Action plans are required from municipalities if six indicators exceed recommended thresholds in 13 financial condition indicators.

The action plan tabled at the Jan. 9 meeting of county council is based on their 2016-2017 assessment results.

For that year, the municipality was given one red, high-risk assessment for their debt, and five yellow, moderate-risk assessments on their liquidity, combined reserves, uncollected taxes, five-year budget accuracy and operating reserves.

The action plan sets out five goals; improve tax collection, enhance budgeting and forecasting, enhance expenditure management, establish appropriate levels of reserve for capital and operating, and improve cash flow.

“We have to keep in mind we just went through two dissolutions,” said councillor Maryanne Jackson. “Because it was 2016-2017, that was right after the Springhill dissolution and into the Parrsboro dissolution, so a lot of the indicators were being done during those changes.”

Since dissolution, the municipality has raised taxes to try to better balance the books.

“And we’ve improved tax collection and we’ve had a lot of tax sales,” said MacDonald.

It’s expected that the Department of Municipal affairs will release their 2017-2018 assessments results of the 50 municipalities early this year, and MacDonald looks forward to seeing what the indexes have to say about Cumberland County.

“It’s a good tool for staff and council and it provides accountability to the province and the public as well,” said MacDonald.

The other six municipalities required to submit an action plan were Clark’s Harbour, Lockeport, Mulgrave, Trenton, Westville, and Yarmouth.

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