By Greg Bennett
New financial figures being released next month should offer a clearer picture about which municipal units in Nova Scotia are financially sound, which are in trouble now and which might be in trouble in the future.
The Department of Municipal Affairs is still in the process of gathering numbers that will be used as part of a financial condition index for each municipal unit in the province.
Representatives at the department say the index will incorporate information gathered from the municipal units and from other sources to provide an “encompassing snapshot” of a municipality’s performance.
These financial snapshots are the result of several years of collaborative effort between the province and municipalities, and are in the final stages of development.
A department spokesperson said results would not be released until next month.
“Speaking to the results at this stage is premature as we are still working with municipalities to verify data and put the final touches on the reports,” said Tracy Barron, a spokesperson for the department. She described the financial condition indexes as “a planning tool for municipalities” and noted that the indicators can help municipalities measure their performance in the areas of revenue, budget/expenditures and debt/capital.
When the indexes are made public next month, the department also plans to hold a technical briefing with media representatives to explain how the numbers can be helpful in determining a unit’s fiscal health.
In recent weeks several small towns in Nova Scotia have raised white flags over financial troubles.
First Springhill and then Bridgetown and now Hantsport have stood up publicly and pointed out they can no longer continue with the status quo. Springhill and Bridgetown have already voted to dissolve, while Hantsport was to make its decision April 16 at a public meeting.
Many towns in Nova Scotia are facing the same types of financial issues.