Westville council doesn’t make any secret of the fact that the town is facing plenty of challenges. On Tuesday, the town got a little boost with the news that it had ranked 10th out of 47 Nova Scotia municipalities included in the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies report.

But Westville Mayor Roger MacKay isn’t celebrating just yet. The information is based from 2005-2007, and MacKay says the report would likely be vastly different – and not in the town’s favour – if it was based on current information.

“Hopefully, it will have some effect, but I can’t see that happening,” MacKay said. “I think things have drastically changed since the study’s been done. Right now we’re just trying to stay ahead.”

The financial difficulties the town is facing will make them look closer at how efficiently it spends its tax dollars, MacKay said, and how effectively those dollars are used.

In Trenton, meanwhile, Mayor Glen MacKinnon was pleased with its overall 11th rating.

“It’s a good rating and I believe, for the time the study was done, it showed we were going in the right direction,” MacKinnon said. “There’s lots of room to improve, but we’re going in the right direction.”

MacKinnon says what he’ll take from the results is the suggestion that the town can be more effective with the use of its tax dollars, which is one of council’s goals.
In New Glasgow, a ranking of 38th place had Mayor Barrie MacMillan promising to put the issue on the agenda at the April 20 council meeting. New Glasgow’s ranking was second-lowest in the county.

“I consider this to be an extremely useful tool to analyze within our departments whether our costs are in line with other municipalities of our size,” MacMillan said. “It’s the next report card that I’m concerned with and seeing how we do with that one.”

One of the reasons New Glasgow got such a poor grade was its F in the safety and protection efficiency category. Charles Cirtwill, AIMS executive vice-president, said that grade was because of the costs New Glasgow pays for its fire and police protection versus what the town gets for those dollars.

“New Glasgow is spending more per capita for service than other towns, which means its efficiency is lower,” Cirtwill said. “Now, it should be noted that it’s totally appropriate for municipalities to spend more for protection services, but the base service cost is more in New Glasgow in return for what you’re getting.”

Stellarton had the lowest ranking in the county at 39th place, receiving D- in both the efficiency and effectiveness categories of government finance, as well as Fs in safety and protection effectiveness and economic development efficiency.

Although Stellarton Mayor Joe Gennoe did not return calls to The News, Cirtwill interpreted some of the numbers to explain the town’s poor grades.

“In the governance and finance categories, they’re spending on staff more than the provincial average,” Cirtwill said. “In terms of the safety and protection effectiveness, we look at crime rates and the value of assets lost to fire. Stellarton’s performance in that category could be considered worse than average, but if there was a big fire in the years we’re covering, that could explain that.”

There were, in fact, two major fires in the town during the study – Scotia Recycling burned  in October 2007, while a home on Main Street was destroyed in March 2007.
Pictou ranked 12th in the province, with a D- in the recreation and culture efficiency category pulling them down. Cirtwill suggested that grade was in response to higher than usual per capita spending on recreation programs.
The county ranked 30th in the report.