Quispamsis Mayor Gary Clark says that the New Brunswick system of equalization grants needs to change.
“I believe that this system is flawed and it certainly needs to be revisited and it needs to be revisited right away to correct any imperfections with the system the way that it is now,” he said.
The community funding and equalization grants are assigned based on a complex formula designed to top up municipal tax revenue where it lags.
But Clark feels the system of property tax disbursement is unfair, pointing to comparably sized Riverview that has a higher tax rate and will receive over $2.5 million this year.
“By doing our due diligence in the Town of Quispamsis and being good stewards to our residents and keeping our tax rates low we feel that we are being penalized by keeping our tax rate low, reducing our unconditional grants,” Clark said.
The town had originally budgeted to receive around $453,656, which is what it got last year, but instead will get $110,347, a difference of nearly $350,000.
Clark says the town is considering a tax hike to help make up the difference.
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“We’re certainly looking at the inevitable and increasing the tax rate, which we certainly don’t like. That’s the last resort,” he said.
“It’s a balance with the public to make sure that we provide the services but also keep a low, a fairly low tax rate, that’s our job.”
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Saint John is receiving over $17.3 million, up $1.23 million from last year. But Ward 4 Coun. David Merrithew says the increase is welcome, but it carries with it some bad news.
“The good news, bad news story is that our conditional grant went up,” he said. “You know you shouldn’t want to live on that handout, you should want to live by your own means and we’re not doing that.”
Merrithew said he’s worried by the lagging growth in the city, which was third behind Moncton and Fredericton.
“Our growth was about $126 million,” he said. “The combined growth of Rothesay and Quispamsis was just over $112 million dollars and I’m not sure how that works when we have a massive amount of industry in this town.”
“We have a massive industrial base and it just seems to me it’s not being taxed fair enough. It’s got to be looked at. It has to be.”