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Two Saint John suburban mayors say ‘no’ to regional taxation

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Wed, Jan 3: The idea of a regional tax has been floated as one way to help the city of Saint John with its financial difficulties. As Andrew Cromwell reports mayors in at least two outlying communities have rejected the idea.

At least two mayors in the Greater Saint John area are throwing cold water on the idea of a regional tax as a way of bolstering the financially troubled port city.

The Saint John Police Association raised the point at a news conference Dec. 8, saying outlying areas use city services they don’t pay for.

“If you’re going to keep these little fiefdoms against what Jean-Guy Finn recommended in 2008, then you’re going to have to have regional taxation,” Police Association Rep. Bob Davidson told reporters.

“If not, the city is going to die.”

READ MORE: New Brunswick increases community funding in light of property tax assessment freeze

Finn, the former commissioner on the future of local governance, penned a report recommending New Brunswick reduce the number of its municipalities to just over 50.

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The idea of a regional tax seems to be a non-starter when speaking to communities bordering the city.

“A regional tax rate for me would leave my taxpayers on the hook for decisions made by somebody else that they had absolutely no say in,” said Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Rothesay says while her municipality has the lowest tax rate in the area, its assessments are very high.

“The tax burden of Rothesay residents is high,” said Dr. Nancy Grant. “[It’s] much higher than the residents in Saint John and I can tell you that Rothesay residents would not be very happy to see the Saint John tax rate applied to our assessment.”

Grant says Rothesay more than pulls its weight, contributing more than $720,000 to the city in various forms.

She says many residents also own businesses and other properties in the city.

 “They obviously pay taxes on those to Saint John in addition to the home taxes they pay in Rothesay,” said Grant.

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WATCH: Saint John mayor, organization of municipalities call for broad changes to N.B. tax system

Click to play video 'Saint John mayor, organization of municipalities call for broad changes to N.B. tax system' Saint John mayor, organization of municipalities call for broad changes to N.B. tax system
Saint John mayor, organization of municipalities call for broad changes to N.B. tax system

In terms of providing more assistance, Mayor Losier says she would support a dialogue surrounding regional planning.

“So that we all had a look in what is defined as our region to determine what is our piece in this puzzle,” Losier said. “What is our responsibility to the hub where we are throughout this region?”

Premier Brian Gallant has promised a “new deal” for Saint John but those details have yet to be made public.