Municipal report card

AIMS, that is the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, has come out with its municipal report card. We’re of course interested in how Wolfville scored in effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of Municipal services.  To understand the scoring here is AIMS explanation of their “grading” system.

The AIMS Performance Report grades municipalities based on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery using a three year average (2005, 2006 and 2007). Efficiency examines how the municipality spends tax dollars and effectiveness examines the extent to which a service or policy achieves its intended result.
These measures are further broken down into absolute, in-context and total. The absolute grades measure the performance of each municipality relative to the rest of the municipalities in the province. The in-context grades  measure performance relative to reasonable  expectations based on that municipality’s Input measures …. In context, municipalities are expected to do at least as well as other municipalities have done in similar circumstances. The final grade is calculated for each municipality by averaging the overall efficiency grade and the overall effectiveness grade. …

First they give the data set on which their scores are based. These figures are things like population, area, roads, average revenue per capita, property tax assessment per capita, long term debt per capita etc. You can look at those figures for Wolfville on page 6 of the pdf document linked to above. [ You can tell already how far we are down the list!]

But what interests us more is the analysis and the grade given our municipality. This we think is a pretty good indication of how well we have been governed compared to other municiplaities in the province. Are you ready?

In Governance and Finance Efficiency – an F ( 45 out of 54) absolute and in Context a D+ ( 44 out of 54)  for a Total of D (44/54) Effectiveness – D- ( 38 /54) absolute and a C+ ( 9/54) in context for a total of C- ( 27/54)

Taxation – Efficiency – a D+ (48 out of 55) absolute and C+ (26/55) in context for a total of C- ( 45/55)  Effectiveness:  C+ (26/55)  absolute   C- (51/55) in context for a total of C ( 37/55)

Safety and ProtectionEfficiency C-  (43/48)  in absolute terms B- (25/48 ) in context  for a total of C (39/48) Effectiveness F (48/48!!!) absolute F (48/48!!!) in context for a total of F (48/48) in other words dead last.

Transportation:  Efficiency A  ( 6/33)  absolute B- (12/33)  in context for a totol of B+ ( 6/33Effectiveness N/A

Environmental Health: Efficiency  B  ( 5/32) absolute B- (12 /32) in context  for a total of B ( 8/32) Effectiveness  C (39/55) absolute  D  (51/55) in context  for a total of C – ( 45/55)

Economic Development: Efficiency-     F (51/55) absolute F (52/55) in context  and a total of F (51/55)        Effectiveness  A+ (3/55) absolute  A+(3/55)  in context for a total of A + (3/55) 

Recreation and Culture: Efficiency   D+ ( 41/55) absolute   B- ( 15/55) in context for a total of C  (38/55)   Effectiveness = N/A

Overall:  Efficiency    C- (45/55 ) absolute C (44/55) in context for a total of C (45/55)  Effectiveness    D+ ( 41/47)  absolute D+ ( 44/47) in context for a total of D+ (44/47)

Final Score:  a C  grade placing 43rd out of 47

We would not be proud of these numbers given what this town has  had to work with compared to other towns.  It is neither efficient nor effective in too many categories. At the top of the list? Lockeport and Middleton. And HRM is not doing badly at 6th place. If the new Councillors wants to set a goal or two one might be to improve Wolfville’s rating for the report card relating to their term of office. This “grade” could also be part of the CAO’s evaluation which is, or should be, part of his contract.

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6 responses to “Municipal report card

  1. While the AIMS report card makes for interesting reading as a true barometer of municipal efficiency or effectiveness it is sadly lacking. The report card makes no effort to differentiate between municipalities or to grade municipalities on services rendered vs. cost.

    There is no discussion of whether police services are 24/7 or 18/6, how many km of sidewalks, if any, there are, whether they are plowed, whether roads are paid by the municipalities or the province, whether there are any special cost sharing arrangements on roads, whether the municipality has a sewage abatement plant or dumps raw sewage into the ocean, what kind of water service is delivered, whether reservoirs are open or covered, what level of recreation is provided etc., etc. Clearly all of these items impact not only on cost but debt. AIMS appears to have relied for the most part on expenses and population and then have assigned an arbitrary grade that they have made up.

    In Wolfville’s case to discuss the efficiency and effectiveness of the police department without adding in the 1,000 + students on campus makes the results a joke. Nor is any consideration given to the fact the Wolfville’s largest employer is non taxable and what if any impact that has on the town’s infrastructure needs and operational expenses.

    When the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities recommended that its’ members not participate in this survey it was for this very reason. We had viewed the questions being asked and recognized that the answers would not allow for a fair or intelligent comparison of municipal services. There are simply to many variables from one municipality to the next to have any kind of fair comparison.

    AIMS’ out seems to be their statement to the effect of that while we have given your municipality a poor grade we will leave it to you to decide whether you like what you are getting. This sounds good but most people have trouble getting past the grade. And even if they do without all of the factors taken into account and without knowing all the comparables how can anyone know whether Lockport is that much better than Annapolis Royal or whether it simply does much less.

    • The students at Acadia seem like a real nice bunch. I’m not sure why you see them as a policing burden.

      I recall, from time to time, seeing incident reports of local police action (Wendy Elliott columns some time ago). It struck me as pretty trivial stuff.

      Time to get off the “blame the university band wagon”. The problem has been Councils that have let Town Administration costs go up like an A-bomb.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending these report cards. I really do make up my own mind.

  2. Brian:

    I am not suggesting that the students are not a great group of young people or that the Town would not be in any way better off without them. However the current lifestyle of young people is high maintenance from a policing stand point. You can ask anyone who lives in the town core, check the cruiser report or ask the Police advisory board. Noise, petty vandalism and other ofter alcohol related events occupies a great deal of the RCMP time.

    This is not unique to Wolfville. In Kingston Ontario the overtime bill for homecoming in 2007 was in excess of $500,000.

    Looking at Wolfville’s policing there is no way that without the students we would need 9 full time officers. That is not an accusation but it is a fact.

    • I can’t see that the “current lifestyle of young people” requires more policing than in the previous 30 or 40 years. Indeed, less!

      What has changed, in my opinion, is that high-spirited behavior is no longer tolerated as it once was.

      I recommend a book for perspective: “Ned Kelly, The Larrikin Years” by Graham Jones.

      Personally, I find the regulators more burdensome than those they regulate…

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