municipal Financial Sustainability

Municipalities in Alberta and across Canada are providing a level of service to its residents never seen before. In addition to what would be seen as core services- such as garbage collection, water and sewer, planning and development, or roads- other services like recreation and leisure, arts and culture, special events, snow removal, and landscaping, have become standard offerings in towns and cities. This level of service has become unsustainable in the eyes of many.

Adding to rising costs, provincial governments continue to "download" the responsibility to pay for additional items like policing and infrastructure to municipalities. Compounding this problem is the provincial government's insistence that it will reduce the funding it provides. This will necessitate some very difficult decisions on the part of towns and cities regarding their level of services as most would agree that taxes can not continue to rise at a rate required to sustain service levels.

Three options are available: 1) Reduce the level of services available to residents; 2) Increase non tax-related revenue sources (fees and charges), and/or, 3) Regionalize services in an effort to optimize resources. The Municipal Services (TMS) Group can assist municipalities in finding ways to assess their current state, secure alternative revenue sources, and share services.

Asset Management

Aging infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, water and sewer lines, recreation facilities, equipment, and natural assets are a challenge facing all municipalities. Municipal councils and administrations across Canada strive to deliver services that its residents need and want at a level it can afford. Asset Management Strategies are a key piece to long term capital planning and help ensure that decisions are informed and an appropriate amount of investment in infrastructure takes place.

Understanding thoroughly WHAT infrastructure is in place, WHERE it is, the CONDITION it is in, and COST of replacement are key pieces to making informed investment in a municipality’s infrastructure.

The Municipal Services (TMS) Group can assist with developing your municipality’s Asset Management Strategy including the Plan and the Policy that will focus on improving your municipality’s asset management practices.

Collaborative Frameworks

Collaborative Frameworks are agreements between agencies such as municipalities, school divisions, non- profits groups and/or the private sector ensure that scarce resources are shared and optimized to the greatest extent possible.

Collaboration can take many forms including:

  • Joint facility ownership

  • Regional boards and/or master plans

  • Systems integration

  • Cost sharing agreements

  • Shared resources such as staffing and facilities, and/or

  • Regionalization of services

Some of the specific projects that The Municipal Services Group have worked on include Joint Use and Planning Agreements (JUPA's), Recreation Master Plans, and yes, even the ultimate collaborative project- Amalgamation!

Revenue Generation Opportunities

Fees and Charges Reviews

User fees are a commonly accepted means of generating revenue for a municipality. Typically these fees offset the tax subsidy applied by municipalities in their efforts to provide programs and services to its residents.

An effective policy and fee setting framework will maximize the use of public money, withstand the test of public scrutiny, focus on Council priorities, and effectively allow municipalities to recover a reasonable level of the costs associated with delivering programs and services.

Utility Rate Reviews

Water, Sewer, and Stormwater utilities are a core service provided by municipalities. However, many towns an cities set their utility rates in an ad hoc manner. Understanding what the full cost of the utility is is a key piece to setting the rate. The Municipal Services Group can assist your municipality with a Cost of Service Study (CSS) which analyses the costs to provide service to each customer class (e.g. residential, commercial, industrial) thereby determining the appropriate rate to pass along to consumers.

Off Site Levy (OSL) Bylaw Reviews

Most municipalities cannot afford to pay 100% of the costs of new municipal infrastructure.

Off‑Site Levies can are one tool to recover the costs a municipality will incur for new or expanded municipal infrastructure or facilities. The Municipal Services Group can assist you with updating your OSL bylaw.

Federal, Provincial, and Private Grants

Government grants are a viable and significant source of revenue for municipalities. The challenge for many administrations is the lack of time to identify and apply for these critical funding sources. The Municipal Services (TMS) Group is extremely familiar with the grant options available to your municipality.

Naming Rights, Sponsorship, and Advertising Programs

Sponsor support is a collaborative arrangement between a municipality and external individuals, groups or organizations. Arrangements between government departments and agencies and the private sector have become commonplace.

TMS group can assist with developing strong policies and procedures that will allow you to leverage this emerging revenue stream for your municipality while maintaining the overriding principles of ethics, public scrutiny, and accountability.