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 Roads and bridges – note that the new Campbellford Bridge will not proceed until 2025 unless Provincial or Federal funding is received earlier.
- County Forest
- Waste Management – garbage pickup, operation of dumps, recycling
- Promoting Tourism
- Economic development – notably Agri-Food Venture Centre in Colborne
- Paramedics – Ambulance service
- Golden Plough Lodge – currently being rebuilt.
- Management of Welfare Services
- Subsidized housing
- Food 4 All warehouse – central management of Food Bank supplies
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?
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|
|Expenses||Social and family services||$35,280,259||$36,434,367||$32,109,954|
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.
- 2018 County Financial Report
- 2017 County Financial Report
- County unveils first look at new Golden Plough – 23 August 2017
- Golden Plough build to go to next stage – 15 April 2018