Auditor says no outstanding concerns.
Chris Guilbeault, audit manager for Hawking Epp Dumont, presented the audited 2016 financial statement to the Elk Point council at their April 24th meeting. She assured council that there are no outstanding concerns, while noting that “it can take up to three or four years to get out of the position of a net financial debt.”
‘Net financial debt’ for Elk Point means a little over $2.8 million, but Deputy Mayor Lorne Young asserts, “For all of the debt that we’ve taken on, we’ve created assets.” The debt was incurred in servicing industrial/commercial lots, servicing residential lots in the north end of town, and building the treated water storage reservoir. Young says, “We’ve needed to do some things to keep the town growing, but we’ve tried to be very fiscally responsible in doing it. We have paid a fair bit of the debt down, but we don’t want to increase people’s taxes.”
Guilbeault praised CAO Ken Gwozdz and Finance Manager Jenny Blacklock for “holding the line on costs, as well as reducing some expenditures.” Guilbeault noted that less income revenue reflects the current economy, but that the town has been put back on track to financial stability by “not taking on new debt; refinancing debt that will mature in 2020; and maintaining a good relationship with Servus.”
The town’s financial status will get a boost as three years of tax holidays for construction in the north subdivision ends. Sales of the serviced lots will eventually recoup the costs of servicing. As the oil and gas industry builds, so will the town’s revenue, and Guilbeault says that will be the time for the town to set aside reserves. She notes that the town has been working more closely with the County of St. Paul and sees sharing facilities, equipment, and grant money as positive steps towards reducing overall costs. As Mayor Parrish Tung says, “In the past 16 years we have forged a good relationship between the town and the County of St. Paul.”
The town continues to look at ways to attract business and investors, as this will increase the revenue sources. Rejuvenating the airport is one strategy currently being pursued. Cultivating and promoting community activities such as Canada Day and Extravaganza, provincial sporting events, cultural events, and family events will also help Elk Point by enticing new residents who are interested in a community based quality of life. Business investment offers the best long-term solution, because when jobs are created, people will come and stay, so Gwozdz is regularly vetting industries and entrepreneurs.
As for the debt, Young says, “We’re definitely heading in the right direction. We don’t want to incur debt that we can’t pay off. We want manageable debt, and debt that helps our community to grow.”