Moose Jaw City Council got some good news when receiving the city's 2021 audited financial statements on Monday night

The financial statements showed a $929,000 operating budget surplus. The city had $54,177,589 in revenue and $53,248,176 in expenses.

Director of Financial Services Brian Acker said overall the city is in a good financial position.

"Our reserves sit at about $126 million and is really a pillar in which the City of Moose Jaw has and will continue in the future to utilize to fund our programs and services," Acker said.

The surplus will flow into the city's accumulated surplus account, which will be sitting at over $1.66 million. The city's practice has been to keep the accumulated surplus at about five per cent of the annual operating budget. For 2022, five per cent of the operating budget would be $2.6 million. 

The accumulated surplus is over $958,000 short of its target and was last at the target level in 2017.

City administration has recommended that city council avoid the use of the accumulated surplus until the account can be rebuilt. If the city does run a shortfall that can't be covered by the accumulated surplus, that shortfall has to be made up over the next year through tax levies or other reserve funds.

Municipal taxation was the city's largest revenue source at $28.8 million, $611,000 more than budgeted. The reason for the increase was favourable assessment appeals that went to the Saskatchewan Municipal Board and assessment growth in 2021, which generated more revenue.

The city received an additional $500,000 from the province for fines and penalties as part of a year-end settlement pushed the revenues above the budget. Generally, the majority of revenues from automated speed enforcement are retained by the province with the city receiving about a third of the revenue after expenses.

The city did see a drop in revenue from recreational services. Post-pandemic, all facilities are fully operational, but usage has been down compared to pre-pandemic. Revenue for recreational facilities was down about $390,000 than what was budgeted.

In total, revenues were $1.7 million more than what was budgeted for 2021.

General government expenditures were $550,000 less than budgeted with savings in the city clerks, city comptroller, safety, planning and development and information technology areas.

Public works expenditures were $510,000 over budget due to the additional $500,000 that came in through automated speed enforcement.

Recreation and family services expenses were $460,000 more than budgeted mainly due to the Mosaic Place (now Moose Jaw Events Centre) subsidy being $435,000 higher than budgeted.

Overall expenses were about $780,000 more than budgeted for 2021.

The financial statements showed that the city's debt increased by $11.4 million in 2021 to bring it to $66.01 million. The majority of the debt increase was related to the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant Renewal Project. The city's current debt limit is $95 million.

"The one thing I think is really important and, for me, was important to be reminded of is a statement under conclusions that says in many cases debt is the only way to fund pressing infrastructure issues within the city. I think sometimes debt is seen as bad," said Coun. Heather Eby.

The city's reserves increased by $10.36 million to $126.73 million. The investment revenue totalled $6.44 million. According to city administration, without the investment revenue as a source of income, taxes would need to be increased by about 19.4 per cent to make up for the windfall.