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By Greg Bennett
On paper it may look bad, but Clarks Harbour mayor Leigh Stoddart says his town is not in serious financial trouble despite seeing a lot of red on its new provincial financial report card.
The financial condition indexes released on Thursday are the result of several years of collaborative effort between the province and municipalities.
The new tool gives a snapshot of the financial health of a municipality, including revenue, budget and capital assets.
Within a total of 15 financial indicators, the Town of Clark’s Harbour scored in the red zone seven times. Red denotes that the Town’s indicator numbers did not meet the expected threshold.
Clarks Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart says the poor report card is not a true reflection of the Town’s financial position though.
“We’re ok,” said Stoddard.
While noting that the Town, like many across Nova Scotia, is facing challenges like outmigration of young people and business closures, he says important health indicators like debt and tax ratios are relatively good.
“Do we have areas that could improve …yes,” he said. “We are not in trouble though.”
During a press conference on Thursday, Municipal Affairs minister Mark Furey cautioned that there were many reasons a municipal unit might score red in any particular category and said the indexes were not meant to be used to compare units against one another.
"Each municipality has its own unique circumstances and the index is a tool municipal leaders can use to highlight issues, support plans for mitigating risks and help plan for the future," said Furey.
The index was developed after a recommendation of the Towns Task Force and was worked on by Municipal Affairs, the UNSM and the Association of Municipal Administrators.
The index for each municipality looks at how it gets its revenue and how it budgets for municipal priorities.
All five units in Shelburne County had at least one indicator in the red.
The Town of Shelburne had five indicators in the red while the Town of Lockeport had four.
The Municipality of Shelburne had three red indicators and the Municipality of Barrington had one.
Each municipality has reviewed and approved its data and provided information to explain certain indicators, unique circumstances and trends. The index is available at http://novascotia.ca/dma/finance/indicator/fci.asp
In recent weeks several small towns in Nova Scotia have raised white flags over financial troubles.
First Springhill and then Bridgetown and Hantsport have said they can no longer continue with the status quo and have voted to dissolve.
Other units may join that list coming months. During Thursday’s press conference Minister Furey said there were as many as 12 municipalities in varying degrees of distress.
Mayor Stoddart says Clarks Harbour isn’t one of them though.