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Town of Westlock councillors review 2023 audited financial statements

Despite lower than expected provincial grants, town still finished in the black with $2 million surplus

WESTLOCK — Despite receiving roughly $3 million less in government transfers than budgeted last year, the Town of Westlock still managed to end the 2023 financial year with a surplus of revenue over expenses of $2.022 million.

That’s according to the audited financial statements for the year ending Dec. 31, 2023, which were presented to Town of Westlock councillors during their March 25 meeting by Edward Cheung of Doyle & Company Chartered Professional Accountants. 

As stated in the consolidated statement of operations, the Town of Westlock had budgeted to bring in $17.4 million in revenue throughout the year and accrue $18.774 million in expenses. 

That would result in a budgeted deficit of $1.4 million, but that would be wiped out by capital government transfers of $5.3 million, resulting in an expected surplus of $3.9 million. 

In fact, the town brought in $16.8 million in revenue and $17.9 million in expenses for a deficit of $1.1 million. However, after factoring in capital government transfers of $3.1 million, the town was left with the $2 million surplus. 

In addition to receiving less money from capital government transfers, the town also received about $265,000 less in operating government transfers than expected — the municipality had budgeted for $1.4 million, but only received $1.1 million. 

While making his presentation, Cheung highlighted the schedule of changes in accumulated surplus, which he likened to a “report card” within the financial statements because it encompasses the town’s operating surplus, funds used for tangible capital assets, amortization and long-term debt repayments. 

“All sorts of information is factored into this schedule,” Cheung said. 

Cheung pointed out that the town began the year with an unrestricted surplus of $2.7 million but ended 2023 with just shy of  $3 million, a difference of about $301,000. 

“That’s really good,” he said. “We don’t usually like that number to be a negative." 

In addition, Cheung indicated the town had a restricted surplus of $5.8 million at the end of the year, and equity in tangible capital assets of $54.4 million. 

More generally, Cheung said the town itself is “doing a great job” in terms of managing its finances, adding that its internal controls have remained strong and there is a good segregation of duties within administration. 

Noting how Cheung had compared the schedule of changes in accumulated surplus to a report card, Coun. Abby Keyes asked him what the town’s report card would effectively be. 

He suggested that the accumulated surplus remaining the same from year to year would be an average grade, but the fact that the town was adding $300,000 to its unrestricted surplus was a positive. 

Recalling that Cheung had been giving this presentation to town council “for as long as I can remember,” Coun. Murtaza Jamaly asked him how the municipality had progressed over the years. 

Cheung recalled the first year had been more of a difficult process, but since then, the town’s management of its finances in terms of things like internal controls was above average. 

Coun. Curtis Snell said he believed the town has gotten better in terms of its financial situation, recalling that back in 2011-12, the town had a negative balance in its bank account. 

“I think we’ve come a long way in ... being able to handle things if they come up,” he said. 

Council later passed a motion adopting the 2023 annual financial statement.

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