Broadwell Services 2

The District of Metchosin B.C., a rural community of 5,000 people just outside Victoria, is proud of having relatively low residential taxes and no debt. But are these the only things citizens should look at when evaluating the finances of the municipality? “No,” said Councilor Moralea Milne, chair of the finance committee: “this is not just about tax levels; citizens want to know about the whole financial picture.”

She asked Sam Weller of Broadwell Services, financial adviser to the District to produce a financial profile of the municipality to summarize where the municipality is at financially. “Only by having a clear idea of where we stand now, can we plan for a financially sustainable future”

The municipal financial profile was developed to answer some of the basic questions that citizens have like: “Where does our revenue come from?” and “What do we spend it on?” As those questions were answered, people very quickly become interested in what services were provided and what assets were needed to provide those services. Then people naturally started to ask questions about whether there were the resources to maintain those services over time, and whether they were being provided efficiently. “This was a very natural process of providing citizens with the information they wanted” said Weller, “Every answer lead to another question, until the citizen were satisfied that staff and Council had a handle on things. Then they inevitably started to ask questions about how we compare with our neighbors.”

The seventeen page profile that was produced was not a financial plan; it was simply a statement of where Metchosin stands financially. One of the benefits is that it used factual information which was already published and available, like the consolidated financial statements, Ministry of Community Service statistics and Stats Canada data. So there was nothing controversial. It was written with the average citizen in mind and included the background data on population, service provision and policy, as well as the financial information that they wanted to know.

“Any municipality could do this,” said Weller “It answers a lot of basic questions, puts the financial information into a context, and is a great starting point for discussing financial strategies.”

Metchosin made the profile available to candidates in the recent municipal elections. “It was a great resource” said returning Mayor John Rans: “Everyone had the same information, and nobody argued over tax levels or debt!”

The profile is available on the Metchosin website