Members of Saint John Common Council believe they’ve taken a big step toward making the city sustainable.
The city’s finance committee has approved a draft budget that eliminates a $10-million structural deficit for 2021.
Cuts to police, fire, inside and outside workers and management staff ate up more than $6 million while the rest came through the city’s Sustainability Initiative.
On Thursday, the finance committee moved forward with a balanced budget of $158 million for the 2021 fiscal year without any financial aid from the province.
Councillor Gary Sullivan, a member of the finance committee, said the budget marks a key turning point for the city.
“I’m well aware of the work that’s gone into make that happen,” Sullivan said. “But in the long term, really working our long-term financial plan, it gives a really bright financial future to Saint John.”
Councillor Donna Reardon, who also sits on the finance committee, said there are new policies in place to better explain where money is going, and why, when it’s spent.
“It’s all those things that we’ve never really had before for guidance, going forward with any of the things we do,” Reardon said. “And without that guidance you tend to not really understand, I guess, what you’re spending and why you’re spending, and at the end of the day, you crash.”
Cities in New Brunswick are required to have balanced budgets, but the last three in Saint John included cash from the province to get there. The councillors say the city desperately needs tax reform and other legislative changes but were told to fix their own money problems first.
“We have been working so hard for so long to get our financial house in order, and we’re there,” Sullivan said. “So now, if we continue working these plans that we’ve had with the provincial government, everything else is just good things for the city. We’re no longer chasing what can we do.
“The reset is done.”
Sullivan said provincial reforms should eventually lead to a number of benefits for Saint John, including a lower tax rate.
The draft budget goes to Saint John Common Council on Monday, and it could be approved as early as Aug. 31.