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Athabasca County surplus for 2021 nears 900K

Council approves 2021 audited financial statements 
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Athabasca County councillors approved the municipality’s audited financial statements following a presentation from Jeff Alliston with Metrix Group LLP at their May 26 meeting. 

ATHABASCA – Athabasca County’s audited financial statements, which show a surplus of $892,594 for 2021 have now been approved and forwarded to Municipal Affairs. 

County councillors heard from Jeff Alliston, a partner with Metrix Group LLP, to go over some of the finer points of the financial year at their May 26 regular meeting, and afterwards accepted his report as presented after several minor amendments. 

This was the first year the accounting firm has been contracted to complete the county’s audited financial statements. 

The document shows the municipality generated $26,441,685 in revenue, just under the 2021 budget prediction, while spending $27,993,949, about $3 million less than was budgeted. This results in a $1,552,264 deficit before further capital contributions from the provincial government. However, once added to those $2,444,858 in capital transfers, the $892,594 surplus appears. 

In completing its budget in 2021, the county was expecting $4,981,984 in capital transfers from the government and expected a $1.1 million surplus. 

Athabasca County also remained debt-free in 2021 with an untouched debt limit of $39,662,528. 

Alliston referred to an increase of $1,171,403 in taxes in arrears more than one year, much of it in linear taxes from energy companies. 

“Over the last about five years, definitely when it comes to rural counties, your tax base has a large proportion of linear tax base, so you know when companies are on these sites for any work the land is worth ‘X’ amount of dollars and your able to tax more,” he told council. “There's definitely been collectability issues as businesses have been suffering during that time, but we’re starting to see a swing in more taxes starting to be collected as the economy kind of changes. So, hopefully that will happen here as well.” 

Further, the county paid $2,694,569 for the remediation of a piece of land near Ellscott. In 2020, $2,613,000 went toward clean-up, remediation and monitoring of the site. Reclamation liability for gravel pits is also identical to 2020 at $2,062,630. 

Council salaries, benefits and expenses came to $530,403, with new councillors accounting for the last 10 weeks of the year after being elected in October. That’s about $36,000 less than 2020. 

Also of note, the salary, benefits and expenses for the CAO position rose from $226,895 in 2020 to $458,183 in 2021, after the June 24 resignation of Ryan Maier, who managed the county between 2014 and his stepping down from the position. The 2021 figure accounts for his salary until that day, as well as his severance and interim CAO Dawn Phillips’ salary until the end of the year. 

An unrestricted surplus of $4,952,536; a restricted surplus of $4,596,585; $9,898,710 in capital; and $84,252,275 in equity on tangible capital assets brought the accumulated surplus to start 2022 up to $103,700,106.  

While the approval of the audited financial statements for the year took place a little later than usual and required an extension to the deadline to submit to Municipal Affairs, reeve Brian Hall said he understood the situation considering the recent change of finance directors. 

“I know there's a lot to think through I'm sure there are some things that may arise. And I think we all understand the situation of the changing directors … This year is nothing to be worried about, we’ll be on track for next year. I like to think of it as missing the rush,” he said. 

Chris Zwick

About the Author: Chris Zwick

Athabasca Advocate editor
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