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Comparative analysis ranks Coaldale’s fiscal health against neighbouring communities

Posted on July 5, 2023 by Sunny South News

By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News

The Town of Coaldale recently published its 2022 comparative analysis document, which provides a “bird’s eye view” of the Town’s rankings according to seven key benchmarks.

The Town first published the document in 2019. The latest analysis, conducted in 2022, gathered information from various municipalities including Blackfalds, Drumheller, Edson, Innisfail, Lethbridge, Lethbridge County, Ponoka, and Taber. The document includes comparative data across the chosen municipalities and contextualizes Coaldale’s data among its peer ad nieghbouring communities. These communities were selected for the document as they reflect similarities to Coaldale in terms of population, proximity to larger urban centres, and/or are regional neighbours to the Town of Coaldale.

The analysis focuses on seven benchmarks:

1. Total revenues and operating expenditures

2. Taxation and assessment

3. Assessments growth

4. Population growth

5. Executive compensation

Additionally, in 2022, two new metrics were added and include the municipality’s crime severity index ranking and salaries, wages, and benefits.

The analysis includes an overview of the total revenues per capita versus the total expenditures per capita across the comparative municipalities.

While the City of Lethbridge brings in $4,661 per person in total revenue, the operating expenditure per capita is the highest on the comparative list at $3,429 per person. Data for Coaldale shows $2,428 is collected in total revenue dollars per capita, which translates to $1,771 in total operating expenditures per person according to the most recent available data.

Coaldale has the second lowest total revenues per capita and the third lowest total expenditures among comparable municipalities included in the 2022 comparative analysis.

“Coaldale takes in less and spends less, thereby making it a low revenue, low-spend operation. Rather than operate on a high revenue, high-spend model like that of Edson or the City of Lethbridge, or worse, a low revenue, high-spend model like in Innisfail,” the document reveals.

In Coaldale, “for every dollar that Coaldale takes in per capita, it spends approximately 73 cents per capita,” which allows for (the Town) to both cover operations, and allocate funds for long-term investments, such as capital projects and infrastructure to support a growing population.

The second benchmark relates to salaries, wages and benefits. The analysis report notes that the concern for how much is spent on salaries, wages and benefits is a pervasive concern, amongst most municipalities, so too is the case in Coaldale. According to the latest comparative analysis, Coaldale spent 63 per cent of its tax revenue in this category. The document notes, “at first this may seem like a lot. However, when compared to Coaldale’s peer and neighbouring municipalities the amount of tax revenues the town spends on salaries, wages and benefits come into view is actually quite low.” With respect to the comparative communities and municipalities, Coaldale ranks the lowest in terms of money spent per capita on salaries, wages and benefits at $648 per capita. In comparison, data shows Taber spent nearly double: $1,274 per person, and 118 per cent of tax revenue, while the City of Lethbridge spent $1,768 per capita, and 114 per cent of tax revenue, on salaries, wages, and benefits. Lethbridge County ranked lowest overall by spending just 50 per cent of tax revenue on salaries, wages, and benefits.

The document reports, “when adjusted for population, the picture becomes even clearer: in actuality Coaldale spends less on employee compensation than all its peers and neighbours, including Lethbridge County in 2021,” amounting to $71 per person less than the second lowest municipality (Lethbridge County), and over $600 less in spending per capita than Taber on salaries, wages, and benefits.

The 34 page document includes data on how elected official’s compensation compares to other municipalities, as well as executive compensation for the Town’s CAO. Comparative data shows that Coaldale spends less on compensation for elected officials than any of its peer or neighbouring municipalities, and shows executive compensation for the Town’s CAO is $8,500 lower than the group average which is $245,121, excluding Taber and Edson who did not have data in this category due to vacancies in the position.

The 2022 comparative analysis shows Coaldale continued to have more residential than non-residential assessment, translating to less overall net taxes available for municipal purposes than any of its peers and neighbours in the comparison group. As a strategy to increase the amount of net taxes available for municipal purposes, “Coaldale continues to maintain a fairly low non-residential mill rate of approximately one per cent,” and outperforms peer and regional competitors in its approach to maintaining a competitive non-residential mill rate.

In summary of the 5th benchmark, taxation assessment, data shows increases in residential and non-residential assessment growth per capita in Coaldale surpassed peer and neighbouring municipalities.

“In terms of residential assessment growth Coaldale saw $24,342 per capita (26 percent more than Lethbridge), and 156 per cent more growth per capita,” than in Taber. Metrics on non-residential assessment growth in Coaldale saw 55 per cent more growth per capita than neighbouring Lethbridge, 82 per cent more growth per capita than Taber and 196 per cent more growth per capita than neighbouring Lethbridge County.

In terms of population growth, the document shows compared to population growth among Coaldale’s regional neighbours, the Town, “has positioned itself as an attractive community to relocate to and live in.”

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