A change in accounting rules for New Brunswick municipalities means they now have to document everything they own and its present day value.
The province's three largest cities have all seen their assets drop in value by about one-third over the years.
In Saint John, the city has spent $1.4 billion in today's dollars on acquiring land, buildings, police cars, equipment, and repairing streets. But those assets have depreciated by $506.9 million, or 35 per cent, leaving Saint John with a total net book value of $925.9 million.
"We have about $500 million dollars in assets that have reached or exceeded their useful life," said finance commissioner Greg Yeomans.
Saint John has $218 million invested in buildings alone, but their book value is barely more than half of that at $126 million.
Coun. David Merrithew is the chair of the finance committee and said the new accounting method is helpful in keeping track of where things stand for the city.
"You would know when an asset has run out of its usefulness – when it's amortized to zero," said Merrithew.
If previous city councils had kept track of depreciation, Saint John's aging water system might have been replaced long ago at a much lower cost, said Merrithew.
Moncton has also seen its assets depreciate by about 35 per cent. It has $907 million in tangible capital assets, offset by $316.5 million in depreciation for a net book value of $591.2 million.
Fredericton is in better shape, showing 30 per cent depreciation. The capital has $731.3 million in assets, with depreciation of $222.4 million, leaving a total book value of $508.9 million.