Province launches municipal fiscal report card tool

·2 min read

Municipal finances could come under more scrutiny, as the province has launched a tool to compare and visualize their financial metrics, including property taxes, revenue and expenses.

The Alberta Municipal Measurement Index (MMI), an online platform being referred to as the fiscal report card, provides a compilation of publicly available municipal financial information in one simple interface (alberta.ca/municipal-measurement-index.aspx).

The tool can be used by municipalities as a planning tool and by Albertans to evaluate government performance, explained Tracy Allard, the province’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, during a Dec. 15 press conference.

“I think it’s really helpful to see where you stand,” she said.

The MMI allows key financial indicators to be compared among municipalities. Metrics include tax rates, municipal tax levy, assessment composition, debt per capita, long-term debt to debt-limit ratio, revenue, and expenses per capita and accumulated surplus per capita. The tool creates graphs to break down the figures.

It also indicates the quality of a given comparison between municipalities, with more similar municipalities being better comparators. It does this by providing an “index number” based on the equalized assessment, population and area of each municipality. Municipalities with closer index numbers are considered better comparators.

The best comparators for the Town of Strathmore are the Town of High River, Town of Hinton, Town of Whitecourt and City of Lacombe (all with index numbers of 83). Among rural municipalities, Wheatland County is best compared to the County of Newell, Lacombe County and Mountain View County.

The MMI uses information each municipality submits annually as required by the Municipal Government Act. However, that means there is a bit of a lag in what is presented, with 2019 data being the most recent figures currently available. New data will be added sometime in the new year. Metrics can also be compared year-over-year, explained Allard.

The tool is in its infancy. Additional criteria, such as municipal service levels, business indicators and other key economic indicators may be included as it is developed, said Allard. “We intended it always to be iterative, so it will grow and change as we tweak it every year.”

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times