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Rankin cuts deficit

Hamlet goes after debtors to boost finances

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Rankin Inlet (Aug 20/03) - Last year, Rankin Inlet's financial statement recorded over $380,000 in bad debts.

That is hundreds of thousands of dollars owed to them by hamlet residents for municipal services and land leases.

The problem wasn't entirely because people wouldn't pay; the hamlet was also not ensuring proper collection.

Over the last fiscal year better billing procedures and management practices have turned that around, said Lyne Toner, hamlet comptroller.

Notices were sent for outstanding bills, some dating back to 1997, telling people what they owed.

"I couldn't care less if it was $20 a month or a $100 a month as long as they paid something," said Toner.

In some cases people were taken to court for collection.

The effort resulted in over $130,000 of bad debts being collected.

That combined with better managing of operating expenses resulted in an fiscal year operating surplus of $560,000.

"The surplus would have been, but we took a big loss in our airport contract," said Toner.

"The government didn't give us enough money to manage that contract."

The hamlet is currently in negotiations to change the funding formula in that contract.

The windfall surplus may be significant, but it doesn't pull the hamlet out of the red.

Their long term accumulated deficit is still approximately $1.2 million.

That is money reflected in a debenture that was used to finance utility installation in Area 6.

In this fiscal year Toner said she expects the hamlet to do well, but admits it will be tough going.

The hard part will be managing a high amount of projected public works expenditures.

The hamlet has a big bill coming for vehicle repairs.

Offsetting that is the fact the hamlet is hoping to take over water billing.

That would mean increased municipal service revenue.

"That is still being negotiated," said Toner.