County Releases 2018 Financial Report

At their recent Council meeting, Northumberland County released their Financial report for 2018. The report for this year has a format similar to previous reports – with the same problems:  the report includes details of where the County is, who the players are, what was achieved and what’s planned for 2019 but most of it is detail which I would guess is of little interest to most taxpayers.  The report says very little about Capital projects and a lot about operational items which no doubt keep staff busy.  CAO Jennifer Moore seems to be making good progress in increasing efficiency and wants to improve transparency but I think taxpayers are mostly interested in what services are provided for the taxes paid.  On a side note, organizationally, the County’s organization includes a Director of Economic Development and Tourism whereas Cobourg manages Tourism under the Community Services umbrella. Cobourg’s Economic Development staff reports separately directly to CAO Stephen Peacock. Interesting.

But first, let’s look at what the County does (headings are not necessarily those used by the County):

County Responsibilities

Infrastructure

  • County Roads and bridges – note that the new Campbellford Bridge will not proceed until 2025 unless Provincial or Federal funding is received earlier.
  • County Forest

Services

  • Waste Management – garbage pickup, operation of dumps, recycling
  • Promoting Tourism
  • Economic development – notably Agri-Food Venture Centre in Colborne
  • Paramedics – Ambulance service

Community

  • Golden Plough Lodge – currently being rebuilt.
  • Management of Welfare Services
  • Subsidized housing
  • Food 4 All warehouse – central management of Food Bank supplies

Departments

Here is a list of departments – all report to Jennifer Moore, Chief Administration Officer (CAO)

  • Communications – Director Kate Campbell
  • Community & Social Services – Director Lisa Horne
  • Corporate Services – Director Lisa Ainsworth
  • Economic Development, Land Use Planning & Tourism – Director Dan Borowec
  • Finance & Treasury – Director Glenn Dees
  • Information Technology – Director Tony Paulic
  • Long term care: Golden Plough Lodge – Administrator Clare Dawson
  • Northumberland Paramedics – Chief William Detlor
  • Transportation, Waste & Facilities – Director Mobushar Pannu

Although the report includes  the above breakdown of departments and a job description for each, it is not clear on who spends how much on what.  For example, there are no breakdowns of how much is spent on roads or welfare payments – just that the total expense of “transportation” was $16.1M and that $36.4M was spent on all Social & Family Services.  And who is the person in charge of big projects like the Golden Plough rebuild or the Campbellford bridge?

Tax Collection

Expenses by TypeEach Town in the County collects taxes for itself plus for the County and the school board – this is similar to the arrangement where the federal Government collects its own plus Provincial taxes.

Revenue and Expenses

The only real way to understand where the money comes from and goes to, is to take the time to review the full financial statements attached to the report – see the link below.  But the graph at right shows how the money is spent.  Note that this does not include capital which is generally financed by a loan then repaid.  The report does not provide a list of Capital projects although documentation on the 2018 budget did provide some details (go here).  In that respect, the report could be improved.

Top Level Financial report

    2018 budget 2018 Actual 2017 Actual
Revenues Tax levy from lower tiers $54,264,162 $54,341,442 $52,752,529
  Province of Ontario $34,421,550 $36,928,470 $31,910,221
  Other revenue $21,318,335 $23,036,933 $22,403,142
  Total Revenue $110,004,047 $114,306,845 $107,065,892
Expenses Social and family services $35,280,259 $36,434,367 $32,109,954
  Transportation services $17,431,345 $16,092,464 $15,548,091
  Health services $14,317,974 $14,376,588 $13,689,745
  Environmental services $12,842,352 $10,509,106 $12,003,674
  Social housing $12,308,408 $12,853,765 $10,969,225
  Other $11,650,227 $11,596,871 $10,752,857
  Total Expenses $103,830,565 $101,863,161 $95,073,546
Surplus   $6,173,482 $12,443,684 $11,992,346

To a non-accountant like me, the follow-on accounting description of the use of the surplus is obscure – it’s not really a surplus but seems to be money used in connection with capital expenditure.  A bit more transparency might explain this for non-accountants; I think that’s most of us.

And although it’s no doubt good that the actual “surplus” is $6M more than planned (that’s about 5%), does that mean there was an estimating error and does that mean taxes need not increase in 2020?  I suspect not.  

Transparency is good if it’s understandable.

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Walter Luedtke
22 July 2019 10:48 am

Quoting from the Annual Report: “The net change in reserves from 2017 was an increase of $6 million. Annual reserve contributions aligned with long-term financial strategies occurred during the year, as did contributions for financing carry-over projects for continuation of works in future years. Reserves provide a critical resource for financing future project and infrastructure needs while minimizing levy fluctuations and future years’ debt servicing costs.” Building up reserves at a time when Federal and Provincial funding programs are ever more unpredictable seems prudent. Changing the subject: “Metrolinx announced plans in 2014 to extend GO Rail service from the current Oshawa GO terminus station to Bowmanville in 2024. The new service uses the CPR line which currently runs through the southern portion of the County, including Port Hope, Cobourg, Alnwick/Haldimand, Cramahe, Hamilton and Brighton. The potential exists for the extension to Bowmanville to facilitate further extensions into the County, especially to the high population centres in Port Hope and Cobourg. While discussions with Metrolinx indicate that this extension is not currently in GO expansion plans, ongoing dialogue between the County and Metrolinx continues to take place. Interim measures such as bus services to the GTHA from the County could also… Read more »

ripped off
22 July 2019 10:47 am

Cobourg property taxpayers should not be burdened with the inefficient ‘County’. Necessary services
should be transferred to the the Town of Cobourg. Accountability would improve dramatically.
The expensive ‘county’ is one of the main reasons Cobourg property owners pay a 1.48 % Residental
Tax Rate [Highest in the Province]
Should Cobourg Taxpayers be paying for a Bridge in Campbellford ??
Wake up people !

Albert
Reply to  ripped off
22 July 2019 10:58 am

Right!
Exit from the unaccountable, unelected County bureaucracy NOW!
Make Cobourg GREAT AGAIN!

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  ripped off
22 July 2019 2:11 pm

There was a time when our County had 16 municipalities, each running their own little kingdoms with their own elected officials and bureaucracies. Was it cheaper AND MORE EFFICIENT? No, it was a mess. Let’s not go back and repeat that mistake.

Frenchy
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
22 July 2019 10:43 pm

Interesting. How long ago was that Deborah? I think there are 12 towns/villages now, right?

ben
Reply to  Frenchy
23 July 2019 8:35 am

Sometime during the 90s and by the way I vote for full amalgamation get rid of the six municipalities and the six little fiefdoms

Frenchy
Reply to  ben
23 July 2019 10:15 pm

That sounds like something Mike “The Knife” Harris was saying and doing when he was premier in the late 90’s. You know, amalgamation and all that.
Nice to know that you and Deborah actually support/supported Bill 26 (1996) and some of the ideas Mike Harris (premier of Ontario 1995-2002) had back then. Maybe old Mike wasn’t such a bad guy after all.

cornbread
22 July 2019 8:33 am

With a total 2 year surplus of over $24 Million…someone needs to shed details on just where this money went…every dollar…or do we have another “Holdco” on our hands.

Durka
Reply to  cornbread
22 July 2019 9:32 am

Is that not directed at capital projects?

cornbread
Reply to  Durka
22 July 2019 11:02 am

Then…what where they? And let’s have the details.

perplexed
Reply to  cornbread
23 July 2019 8:54 am

I believe they went into Venturesome ideas and small business starts that fumbled and most were never recovered Bad Debt and not properly secured or no security at all
in many cases

Deborah O'Connor
Reply to  cornbread
23 July 2019 2:12 pm

The Golden Plough Lodge is facing a re-build very soon, money has been set aside for years to finance that. Ministry mandated since the 140 year (approx) structure is inadequate now.

cornbread
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
23 July 2019 4:28 pm

So let’s see the financial details on this sinking fund.

Jim Thomas
Reply to  Deborah O'Connor
31 July 2019 12:59 pm

I visit Golden Plough regularly and am well aware that the place is clean, functional and apparently quite comfortable and well-run. All it really needs is central air conditioning.
There is no way this building is 140 years old. Surely that figure refers to the original building, now long demolished. (There are photos in the hallways showing the old building surrounded by farm buildings and plowed (sic) fields).
I don’t see the rationale at all for tearing down a major structure that appears quite functional and relatively up-to-date. I note in this regard that they recently brought in a crew that tore up an extensive area of flooring and replaced it with new, in a building scheduled for demolition in a couple of years.

cornbread
Reply to  Jim Thomas
29 August 2019 8:51 am

I would love to see the proposed cost to demolish the current GP & fix up the grounds versus what this $ amount could accomplish in upgrades to the current GP. Then add the new building for a huge gain in accommodation of residents.