Nova Scotia running $678.9 million deficit instead of predicted surplus for 2013-2014

Published on July 31, 2014

Nova Scotia is running a $678.9 million deficit, the province announced July 31 as it released the public accounts for the last fiscal year, instead of the predicted surplus.

The annual public accounts compare the actual financial results at the end of the fiscal year to the budget plan set out at the beginning of the year. It’s an accountability document to taxpayers that includes financial information of departments, Crown corporations and boards, salaries, payments to suppliers, and travel and other expenses.

This year’s audited financial statements for the 2013-2014 year show the $678.9 million deficit, which is mainly attributed to sharply lower revenues and a large one-time expense. The 2013-2014 budget estimated a $16.4 million surplus.

The one-time expense was a $318.3-million pension valuation adjustment, which was announced in the December forecast.

"The public accounts for 2013-14 further emphasize the difficult fiscal journey we have ahead and the importance of getting to sustainable public finances in this province," said Diana Whalen, minister of Finance and Treasury Board. "A clear and deliberate approach for both the economy and the government will give us the ability to meet unexpected needs without relying on deficit budgets."

Total revenues were $10 billion, a decrease of $231.4 million from the estimate, due primarily to a $145.6-million reduction in royalties from the Sable offshore project as costs to wind up the project have risen, and a prior-year reduction in personal income taxes and HST of $101.6 million.

Total expenses were $10.7 billion, an increase of $463.9 million from the estimate, primarily due to the pension valuation adjustment. This includes departmental spending, which increased $69.7 million. Some of increased funding was used to:

• meet the needs of more Nova Scotians on social assistance and their complex cases

• clear and salt the roads during a very stormy winter

• enhance programming at schools

Year-end additional appropriations totalling $33.6 million were approved. Total appropriations for the year were $438.4 million, mainly due to the pension valuation adjustment.

Net debt was $14.8 billion, $772.7 million above budget estimate. This is a result of the deficit plus the net investment in capital assets. Net debt-to-GDP was 37.8 per cent.

The auditor general has provided an unqualified opinion of the public accounts for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014. In his opinion, the 2013-2014 financial statements fairly present the consolidated financial position of the province in accordance with Canadian generally accepted accounting principles for the public sector.