Province ends fiscal year with lower deficit, higher expenses
Nova Scotia ends fiscal 2014-15 with lower deficit, higher expenses than forecast.
The final books for fiscal 2014-15 saw the Nova Scotia government register a $143.7 million deficit - a figure $135.3 million lower than forecast in the 2014 budget.
The Finance Department, which released financial statements Thursday for the fiscal year that ended March 31, said the improvement was largely due to reduced departmental expenses and increased income and sales taxes.
Government revenue was $172.5 million higher than budgeted mainly due to $110 million from the so-called prior year adjustment. The money is the province’s share of federal tax revenues from previous years that are finally paid out.
Finance Minister Randy Delorey acknowledged that the figure is largely beyond the control of his department, which can only make a best guess when it ta-- bles any budget. He pointed out that in the previous fiscal year the government received $250 million less than it had estimated.
“We must forecast and model as best we can and we must continue to be diligent in those items that are largely within our control,” said Delorey.
However, total expenses were up $92.7 million from the budget estimate, partly due to an increase in spending in some departments and $131.5 million in extra costs for things such as snow clearing and environmental cleanups.
Progressive Conservative finance critic Tim Houston said it’s clear the finances would have been worse without the extra money from Ottawa.
Houston said he’d like to see the finances improving because of an improved economy.
“That’s not the case,” he said. “We are seeing the finances improving because of a windfall.”
Acting NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald also picked up the theme and questioned whether the government’s fiscal direction is sustainable. She said the Liberals have chosen to hold off on things such as opening more long-term care beds and filling vacant government positions.
“At some point you have to bite the bullet around that,” said MacDonald.
But Delorey, who was only appointed to his portfolio in last week’s cabinet shuffle, said he believes the government’s fiscal plan is working.
“There is still a lot of work to be done to get to a balanced budget, however we are confident we are on the right track,” he said.
The government forecasted a deficit of $97.6 million for 201516 in its budget tabled in April.