Town of Coaldale Outperforms the Competition on Key Financial Metrics

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2020 Comparative Analysis report compares Coaldale to similar Alberta municipalities

As part of their ongoing commitment to transparent governance, the Town of Coaldale is releasing its 2020 Comparative Analysis report.  This report examines the Town across 5 key benchmarks and compares this information to a set list of similarly sized or nearby municipalities.  The results of the analysis show Coaldale is living up to the challenge of doing more with less.

“For the past 2 years the Town has been engaged in this comparative analysis exercise,” said Cam Mills, Manager of Economic Development for the Town of Coaldale. “This is an extra step the Town takes to communicate key financial information to our residents in a way that is easy to digest; it’s something other municipalities simply don’t do and it’s something we’ve committed to doing annually. It’s part of a suite of reports and engagement opportunities we provide to our residents to allow them to connect with the Town and better understand how it is operated.”

The comparative analysis document compares the Town of Coaldale to similarly sized municipalities: Taber, Edson, Ponoka, Innisfail, and Blackfalds. Additionally, the report considers neighboring municipalities Lethbridge County and the City of Lethbridge. The report analyzes five categories that are intended to paint a broad picture of how the Town is doing relative to its peers: Spending & Revenue, Taxation, Assessment Growth, Population Growth, and Executive Compensation. 

“All of the statistics from the report come from reputable sources outside of our jurisdiction,” said Mills. “We pull all the information from audited financial statements, provincial reports and information provided from Statistics Canada. For us the exercise is about checking in to see how we are doing compared to our peers; because of where the data comes from you can know that it’s trustworthy and impartial.”

The report contains some potentially startling revelations.  For example, the Town spends substantially less than most municipalities on staffing and wages relative to its population, spending $659 per capita, which is around 15% lower than the next lowest group consisting of Blackfalds, Innisfail, Drumheller and Ponoka who are around $780 per capita.  Matching that, Coaldale also takes in the lowest revenues per capita at $1,945 compared most municipalities in the peer group whose combination of taxes, fees, and charges generate a per capita average of over $2500 even with Lethbridge ($4,575) removed.

“We’ve made a big effort to keep our costs down over the past few years and that’s meant finding ways to do more with less,” said Town of Coaldale Mayor Kim Craig. “It’s a challenge that everyone in the organization has really gotten behind and it’s allowed us to go three years without raising taxes, even while we do a huge number of major projects like Civic Square and the Recreation Center. It’s something we take a lot of pride in as an organization.” 

The report clearly shows that the Town has succeeded in its goal of being a leader in the municipal field in terms of adopting innovative and efficiency-focused practices designed to keep costs down, while simultaneously supporting the Town’s continued commercial and residential growth.  Benchmark 3 measures the Town’s assessment growth using the provinces equalized assessment figures; the total value of assessment in town has grown by 288 million dollars since 2015, a figure that represents $32,416 in value per capita in Coaldale and which is the number 1 ranking across the group (number 2 is Blackfalds at $26,466). What’s perhaps more important for the Town is the commercial and industrial growth provides a major component of that new assessment, showing that businesses are starting to see the value of investing in the community. All of this growth has happened during a council term where Coaldale has lowered its mill rates while rates have steadily gone up everywhere else (Benchmark 2).

“We’re committed to doing this analysis every year; it gives our residents some context for how much we’re spending and also how much they are paying, and that’s really important,” said Mills. “For a few years now, we’ve really focused on finding ways to help our residents better understand all the work that goes into helping this community continue to grow and succeed, and this is just one more tool our residents can use to understand how the Town is running its operation.”

The comparative analysis report was presented to Council in February of 2021 and will be posted to the Town’s website, as well as made available for pickup at the Town office in printed format by April 15th.