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Canmore receives positive feedback on audit of 2020 financials

Canmore's revenues and expenses were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but it still managed to see a $1.3 million surplus from its operating budget.
The Town of Canmore's IT department has prevent 25 cyber-attacks in the past few years. RMO File photo.

CANMORE – In a year like no other in recent memory, the Town of Canmore received a clean bill of health for the past financial year.

Canmore’s finance committee received an independent audit of their financial statements from 2020.

“Given all that we’ve gone through in the last year, I think these financial statements are awesome," said Mayor John Borrowman. "I’m not crediting council on this, but the Town of Canmore administration, particularly in the finance department, that are doing an awesome job.

“It helps with our work as council in having that confidence in what our team is doing, particularly in a difficult year like COVID.”

The pandemic wreaked financial havoc on municipalities across Canada, with Canmore being no different. However, the audit highlighted how financial help from the federal and provincial governments eased the pressure on the Town’s bottom line.

The audited statements, were done by Avail CPA, also which noted COVID-19 is continuing to lead to economic uncertainty and there could be decreases in revenue and delays in capital projects.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the pandemic at this time,” said Michelle Lutz, a manager with Avail CPA.

The Town’s revenue dropped from $69.5 million in 2019 to $60.2 million in 2020 for a decline of 13.3 per cent. Lutz said the majority of that loss in revenue came from user fees and sales of goods, which were down by about $12 million.

“Most of this relates to [Canmore Community Housing] revenues, which decreased from $12 million in 2019 down to $1 million in 2020,” she said, adding COVID-19 also saw recreation fees plummet during the year.

Canmore’s operating expenses also fell by about $9.3 million from $64 million in 2019 to $54.7 million in 2020.

Lutz said the majority of the decrease was due to the public housing operations falling by about $10 million to $3 million in 2020. CCH also developed a new housing project in 2019, but did not move forward with any capital projects in 2020. 

The decrease in revenue for expenses and operations largely offset one another, with an increase of about $100,000 for budgeted operating expenses.

The actual operating surplus for 2020 ended up being approximately $1.3 million, according to Lutz. 

Major infrastructure costs for the Town were $18 million to the Cougar Creek flood mitigation construction, $9 million for transportation improvement plan, $2 million for the organics diversion program, $2 million for the south Bow River loop watermain and $2 million for the purchase of land along Palliser Trail.

The financial assets modestly increased from $98.3 million in 2019 to $101.8 million in 2020.

The Town also holds liabilities of $88 million compared to $81.6 million in 2019. The net financial assets dipped slightly from $16.7 million in 2019 to $13.8 million last year.

Canmore also ended 2020 with roughly $54 million in reserves, which is an increase from the $48.2 million in 2019.

Ric Irwin, the Town’s senior finance officer, said a debenture payment from 1993 on wastewater projects was completely paid out and other older debentures will also be paid in coming years.

On sustainable indicators, Canmore matched up with other comparable town’s such as High River, Strathmore and Sylvan Lake as well as the 16 municipalities that had a comparable population in the province.

Calvin Scott, a partner with Avail CPA, said the Town had made more infrastructure investment than other comparable towns. He also said the comparative information is taken from financial statements, so it doesn’t account for Canmore having more amenities than the average town.

Coun. Esmé Comfort highlight the audit was “very thorough,” and the auditors’ knowledge of the rest of the province was a benefit for Canmore.

“This has been a very difficult year and our staff have stepped up to the challenge," added Coun. Joanna McCallum. "Our auditors have felt our staff do an amazing job each year and that we’re lucky to have them, and I would agree we’re lucky to have them.

“They have managed to keep us on track financially and these audited financials are a statement to that dedication to their jobs.”