This study was commissioned by the Councils of the Towns of Trenton, Westville and
Stellarton to explore options with respect to delivering municipal services within their
Towns. The study has been undertaken to provide the Councils with information and
analysis to allow them to make informed decisions with respect to their participation in a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the Towns of New Glasgow and Pictou
and the Municipality of the County of Pictou which targets a request to form a Regional
Government in Pictou County in the fall of 2016. The study was commissioned and
substantially completed prior to the finalization of the MOU, and therefore does not
include any analysis or consideration of the MOU and its terms.
The intent of this study was not to reach definitive recommendations on alternative
approaches to service delivery, but rather to explore options and, if possible, identify
potential for delivering municipal services at a reduced cost. The terms of reference for
the study (see Appendix A for full detail) identify a number of municipal services which
are within the scope of the study – administration and financial services, policing, public
works, recreation services, planning and zoning and water utility operations. Municipal
services that are excluded from the scope of the study are existing shared services,
community rinks and fire departments. Also specifically excluded from the scope of the
study are municipal governance structures and funding structures/arrangements related
to service delivery options that may be identified.
Process and approach
The study included a detailed compilation and analysis of the service delivery cost for
the in-scope services of the three towns based on 2013-14 financial statements and
records. Total costs of $11.2 million were included in this analysis. The compilation
and analysis of costs was undertaken in two different dimensions – a review of costs
based on breakdowns by functional service areas (policing, public works, etc.) and a
review based on the nature of the costs (wages, contracted services, supplies, etc.).
The breakdown of costs by nature of the expenses was further analyzed to assess the
potential for cost reductions within each grouping, taking into account the types of
expenses and the underlying constraints and source of the costs.
This analysis resulted in a division of costs into three broad groupings – those costs
with little or no potential for cost reductions (total of $2 million), those with moderate
potential ($2.5 million) and those with significant potential ($6.7 million).
Analysis of non-financial data was also undertaken to gain an overview of existing
staffing levels, current workloads and responsibilities and unique capabilities or skills.
Significant assets that might impact, or be impacted by, a change in service delivery
approach, including vehicles, heavy equipment and buildings and facilities were also
summarized and their condition assessed at a non-technical level. Other data covering
workloads in each functional area was also summarized.
This data collection and analysis established a framework to provide focus for the study,
to identify service delivery alternatives and to assess their feasibility and cost-reduction
Alternative approaches to the provision of municipal services in the three towns were
considered and assessed, beginning with options that involve minimal complexity and
change to existing operating models, and progressing to options with increasing levels
of complexity and change.
The first option explored was the potential for co-ordinated purchasing of supplies and
expenses and the co-ordinated deployment and use of existing equipment and similar
resources. This option, while involving minimal change, offers only modest possible
annual cost reductions - a maximum $215,000 for the three towns combined, and the
level of effort required could negate some or all of the savings potential.
Contracting of services within the three towns was next assessed. Due to the similar
size and capabilities of each of the three towns and the existing sharing and contracting
in some service areas, this option appears to offer a maximum cost reduction potential
of $100,000 per year.
Contracting of services outside the three participating towns was considered.
Assessing the cost reduction potential of this alternative would require more detailed
discussion and analysis involving a potential service provider. It would appear that, for
most of the current municipal services, the Town of New Glasgow would be the only
realistic potential service provider. A review of the New Glasgow audited financial
statements for 2013 and other available “high-level” information would indicate that that
town may have excess capacity within its current operations to provide some services to
one of the three towns, but, given that it would involve more than doubling existing
workloads for New Glasgow, provision of all services to all three towns is not likely to be
viable. It was also noted that similar contracting arrangements have been undertaken in
the past with mixed results.
Contracting of policing services to the RCMP is another alternative for that particular
service. Again, assessing cost reduction potential would require access to more
information and external sources. A review of published financial data for municipalities
in Nova Scotia does indicate that those towns using the RCMP for their policing
services have a significantly lower cost for this service than those towns with local
police forces. There is a substantial transitional cost to such a move that could negate
savings, but this might be an option deserving further consideration and analysis.
In view of the limited cost reduction potential offered from the preceding “low-impact”
options, a more detailed review of combining service delivery for each of the functional
areas under a single service entity for that service was undertaken. This review
included discussions with the management from the service areas in each of the towns
to identify concerns and opportunities as well as possible operational structures. In all
cases an overriding principle was set out that service levels for any of the three towns
should not be reduced with the change. Based on the review and cost analysis it was
determined that a combined administrative service could produce annual savings of
$320,000. A combined policing service for the three towns could produce annual
savings of $210,000 at existing service levels or alternatively could operate at an
enhanced level of service with annual savings of $25,000. A combined public works
services operation has a potential to produce savings of $250,000 at existing service
levels or alternatively to deliver significantly increased service levels at the same cost as
today. The review of recreation services did not identify any cost savings potential but
did identify some increase in the level of service.
Based on the review of individual service entities for each of the functional areas, a final
review of the savings potential under a single service entity which managed and
provided all services to the three towns was completed. This review indicated that such
an initiative has the potential to optimize cost savings – with immediate cost savings of
$310,000 possible under the enhanced service model for policing and public works and
savings of $820,000 under the base level model for those functions. It was further
estimated that savings could increase to between $500,000 and $1,000,000 over a few
years as equipment and other rationalizations were implemented. This level of cost
reduction would result in a reduction in property tax rates averaging between 4% and
9%. The impact on the tax rates for each of the towns cannot be determined without a
defined sharing formula, which is outside the scope of this study as set out by the terms
of reference. A high-level analysis does, however, indicate that there should be a level
of cost reduction possible for each of the towns.
In addition to the potential cost reduction benefits identified, increased levels of service
and other non-financial benefits are also identified in the report.
While the scope of this study did not permit the development of detailed projections of
transition costs associated with a move to a collaborative service delivery model, based
on available information, estimated costs are between $500,000 and $750,000.
The objective of this study was not to provide a recommendation on changes in service
delivery, but solely to provide information and analysis on available options.
Accordingly, structures and operating frameworks that are set out in this report were
developed to facilitate development of cost estimates and feasibility assessments. The
structures and frameworks may provide a starting point if a decision were made to move
forward with one or more of the options set out in this study, but would require
adjustments and alterations as the implementation proceeded. The approach to
developing the cost estimates was relatively conservative, and accordingly any required
adjustments and alterations identified in an implementation should be possible without a
significant reduction in the estimated cost savings described above.
The final component of this study was to undertake an assessment of the level of
compliance that a full collaborative service model would meet relative to the established
principles contained in the terms of reference and also relative to some added criteria
that were identified during the study. The results of this assessment and a description
of the factors that would be critical to success are set out in Table 11 (page 43) of the
report. Those principles and criteria address such issues as preserving or enhancing
existing service levels, ensuring a common level of service for the three towns but also
having flexibility to allow differences based on local priorities, and ensuring a
sustainable, cost-efficient operation for all participants. It is believed that the model as
described in the report is capable of meeting all of the established principles and
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Visit the Trenton Heritage Room to see information gathered from the residents, businesses, photos, newspaper, articles and artifacts of our Town’s past. For more information, visit the Trenton Heritage Room information page on the Town website.
Housing Repair Program
Did you know that the Province of Nova Scotia provides assistance to low-income homeowners who cannot afford to carry out emergency repairs to their homes? For more information, please contact the Department of Community Services - Housing at 755-5065. You can also go to: http://novascotia.ca/coms/housing/index.html for a list of programs and informative links.