STELLARTON – The best place to live in Nova Scotia is Stellarton, according to a report released Wednesday by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

In the second annual municipal performance report, which ranks the 55 municipalities across the province, Stellarton came in number one overall, followed by Parrsboro and Digby County.

The report grades and ranks each municipality on its efficiency – the ability to keep costs low, and effectiveness – delivering high-quality services, in seven categories: governance and finance, taxation, safety and protection, environment, transportation, economic development, and recreation and culture.

Results are presented for overall performance and for performance in these individual categories.

“We’re proud and very excited,” said Stellarton Mayor Joe Gennoe, who admitted that while he wasn’t sure how the rankings were compiled, it was a good indication that council’s hard work was paying off.

“Apparently we’re doing the right thing – we’re going to try to keep up the good work.”

The rankings are the compilation of information from 2006 to 2008 compiled from what AIMS says is “provincially comparable, from credible sources and relevant to what is being assessed. We have calculated grades and ranks to make comparison of the 55 Nova Scotian municipalities quick and convenient.”

AIMS also indicates that it realizes not all municipal governments have the same opportunities to succeed, and to account for that, the report considers the context in which municipal governments operate, including the geographic, demographic, wealth and previous municipal financial characteristics that impact municipal government performance.

Stellarton had the lowest cost of governance and finance services and the most effective police and fire services.

Gennoe says that council hopes to increase its rankings in other categories next year and is focusing on areas of the town to do just that.

“We’re trying to build up our commercial tax base so we can do well by our citizens and we’re working very hard on our business park so we can increase our tax revenue so we can better serve our citizens,” he said, adding that the town’s high ranking is a good reflection of the work being done by town staff and cooperation among council.

Trenton was also recognized for having the most effective governance and finance services and had an overall ranking of 19 out of the 55 municipalities in the province, the second highest ranking of Pictou County’s six municipalities.

Mayor Glen MacKinnon says he’s thrilled with Trenton’s ranking.

“I’m extremely pleased with the rankings we were given,” MacKinnon said. “It bodes well for the people we have doing our work in the Town of Trenton, they are working very hard to make sure Trenton remains viable in the future.”

The town has had to make some “tough decisions” over the last few years, he said, but said they’ve been working hard to follow council’s mandate.

“We obviously, as a council, appreciate the hard work and effort our people are putting forward,” he said.

Pictou, meanwhile, had the lowest cost of transportation services, but an overall ranking of 43 out of the 55 municipalities.

“It’s nice to be considered that high,” said Pictou mayor Joe Hawes. “We’ve strived for the last few years to be cost-competitive.”

The Municipality of Pictou County ended up near the middle of the pack with an overall ranking of 34, but Westville came in with an overall rank of 44 and New Glasgow was near the bottom with an overall ranking of 49.

“In assigning the overall grades, the authors have set a high bar for our municipalities,” says AIMS President Charles Cirtwill. “Low-cost, high-quality services across seven broad categories of what our communities are supposed to provide. With the best overall mark being a “B” I think that says we have lots of room for improvement.”

Successes and failures come in all shapes and sizes, he said, and no municipality is perfect. Although Stellarton, Parrsboro and Digby County are the top three municipal governments, he urges people to look beyond the overall scores. While all three perform well in certain areas, they perform poorly in others, which can also be said about the bottom three – Annapolis Royal, Shelburne and Oxford.