Cities spending too much, consultant says

New Brunswick cities are spending too much money, a Halifax-based property tax consultant says.

New Brunswick's largest cities need to start controlling their spending, a Halifax-based property tax consultant says.

André Pouliot said Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John councils have permitted spending increases over the past decade that have far outstripped inflation.  

Moncton's municipal spending shot up by 91 per cent, over the 10 years from 2001 to 2011, he said.

In the same period, Fredericton's spending rose by 76 per cent and Saint John's went up by 54 per cent.

"I think you'd have to give Saint John some credit," Pouliot said.

But all three cities are taking income from people’s rising annual assessments for granted, he said.

Pouliot said that he sees no connection between increases in spending and increases in population or the consumer price index.

"What we did see was a very strong co-relation to the growing tax base for each municipality," Pouliot said.

The cities' tax bases have continuously increased in recent years.

Moncton, which has the largest municipal tax base in the province, saw its tax base rise to $6.4 billion in 2012 from $6.2 billion in 2011.

In the same time period, Saint John's tax base grew to $6.4 billion from $6 billion and Fredericton's rose to $6 billion from $5.8 billion.

'Overspending on foolish stuff'

The report on local spending comes as many councils, especially Saint John, are dealing with tough budget choices.

Saint John has a $190-million pension deficit. Earlier this year, Saint John cut $9 million in programs and services.

While Saint John's rate of spending growth has been far slower than Moncton's, the port city's budget is still higher — by about $10 million.

Saint John homeowner Tom McDonald just received his property tax bill and he's not happy.

"It's higher than it should be," he said.

"It's all because of spending, overspending on foolish stuff."