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Westlock County achieves year-end $615K operating surplus

Audited financial statements to be presented to council at April 23, 2024 meeting

WESTLOCK – Westlock County ended 2023 with an operating surplus of $615,000, due to revenue being 1.4 per cent more than expected and expenses being 1.5 per cent under budget. 

That’s according to the draft 2023 operating variance report presented to Westlock County councillors at their March 26 meeting, along with the draft 2023 capital projects progress report and the draft 2023 reserve summary. 

Council passed a motion to accept all three reports for information and another motion to transfer the $615,000 surplus to operating reserves. 

General manager of corporate services Peggy Hardinge noted the county is in the final stages of its yearly audit, which required the motion to transfer the surplus to reserves to complete. 

She said the audited financial statements will be presented to councillors at their April 23, 2024 meeting. At that point, the auditor will be going into more detail as to why the county finished the year with an operating surplus. 

Nevertheless, she did highlight a few factors, noting that fuel expenses were lower than expected in 2023. Transportation services were budgeted as a $7.56 million expense but came in at $7.14 million.

"That’s a difficult one to budget for with the changing fuel prices,” she said. “But I guess it’s good news that we’re under budget.” 

In the end, total revenue for the period ending Dec. 31, 2023, came in at $21 million, while expenses were $20.4 million. 

Coun. Stuart Fox-Robinson asked why there appeared to be a significant difference in councillor expenses from November to December, noting that he hadn’t submitted any expenses and hadn’t been paid anything. 

Hardinge indicated that as administration goes through the year-end process, they record a variety of expenses that were supposed to be on the books but haven’t yet. 

One such example is the $409,000 expense for RCMP services, which doesn’t come in until the very end of the year. 

“There are many items that are captured at year-end,” she said. 

Incidentally, council also accepted the operating variance report for the period ending Feb. 29, 2024 at the same meeting. 

Two months into the year, the county has accrued approximately 1.9 per cent of budgeted revenue and incurred 8.1 per cent of expenses. At the same time last year, the county had realized 8.2 per cent of expenses and 2.4 per cent of revenue. 

Outstanding taxes receivable now stand at $1.659 million, compared to $1.628 million at the same time last year.

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