The Town of Arnprior is a lower tier municipality situated in the County of Renfrew with a population of approximately 9,300, sharing a border with the City of Ottawa. In December 2010, a newly elected Town of Arnprior Council had taken office. The new Council had campaigned in large part on a change agenda. This change agenda focused on administrative and financial improvements needed at Town Hall.
With a mostly new Council, there was much to absorb. Campaign promises needed to become a reality. By the fall of 2012, a new Treasurer and CAO were hired with clear accountability deliverables. The first step was to undertake a community focused strategic planning exercise.
The community and key staff participated in separate focused discussions on the Town’s future ambitions. A similar session was conducted with Council. Although each session was undertaken separately to validate perspectives, the findings were essentially the same. Their alignment served to reinforce that Council was on the right track. In the end, the final adopted strategic plan identified several Long-term Visions and Objectives. In particular:
- Vision: Improved infrastructure: An implementable 10-year capital plan including a lifecycle strategy for all assets.
- Objective: Sustainable financial model: Measured by debt ratios and a sound long-range financial plan.
Armed with these key policy visions and objectives, the new administration took steps to ensure these goals became a reality. The following 15 GOALS were put in place to facilitate the financial turnaround:
- A commitment to follow, report on and update the Strategic Plan annually
- A commitment to undertake critical Master Studies including, Master Infrastructure, Master Storm Servicing, Recreation Master Plan, Fire Master Plan, and Official Plan
- A complete overhaul of the Development Charges Background Study using the data provided by the new Master Studies
- A complete update to the Water & Wastewater Financial Plans
- A comprehensive review of all Tangible Capital Asset Values
- Adoption of a Comprehensive Asset Management Plan using data from the new Master Studies, Tangible Capital Assets and Development Charges Background Study
- Adoption of a 10-year Long Range Capital Forecast, later expanded to a 20-year Long Range Capital Forecast using data from Master Studies, Development Charges Background Study, Financial Studies and the Asset Management Plan
- A commitment to update and report on the Asset Management Plan annually
- A commitment to undertake annual fee(s) reviews
- A commitment to undertake biannual financial reports
- Adoption of a new best practice-based Procurement Policy
- Development of a new comprehensive annual budget document including page by page scope notes throughout
- Adoption of a Reserve & Reserve Fund Policy to guide the use of all corporate revenues and expenditures
- Adoption of the Pay-As-You-Go financial model, including a commitment to no new long-term borrowing (nothing greater than 10 years)
- A commitment to fund Pay-As-You-Go Reserves in order to fund Pay-As-You-Go projects
- Adopt internal financial controls including a Discretionary 80% Spending Rule
The result of these and other critical best practice steps is self-evident in the tables below.
The Town of Arnprior increased its annual contributions to reserves by 210% in six (6) years while Municipal Tax Rate increase averages were kept below CPI averages. This was accomplished even though Council held Municipal Tax Rate increases to 0.00% in 2014 (an election year).
In 2016, the Town was able to commence the largest self-funded construction project in its history by using a combination of pay-as-you-go reserves and a 5-year short-term bridge financing loan. To accomplish this, in 2016 capital expenditures increased to approximately 3 times the 2015 amount and, in 2017, capital expenditures were more than double that of 2015. The Town is projecting a full financial recovery from this major project within 5 years of its start date. The Town is also forecasting full repayment of all past long-term debt within 14 years. There are three debt retirement milestones to occur over the 14-year period. As each milestone is achieved, the annual debt servicing savings will be reallocated to fund infrastructure renewal projects.
The Town of Arnprior continues to leverage all the best practices it has put in place as it reduces the infrastructure gap by increasing funding allocation to linear assets annually. While it does take time and a commitment to stay the course, these critical steps can pay dividends. To be successful, it is important that Council and staff work together to achieve its objectives through ongoing reporting and dialogue. A term of Council Strategic Plan is one of the best ways to start.
Municipal Government Wayfinders is ready to partner with you to create strategies that work for your municipality’s unique circumstance. Contact us at info@MGWayfinders.com or call our offices at 613-319-2940.