The City of Saint John has set aside $700,000 for recreation and community centres this year. (CBC)

The City of Saint John is evaluating how much bang for its buck it's getting out of its neighbourhood improvement budget as officials look for ways to cut overall spending and get out of direct funding for social programs.

City officials are currently reviewing the findings of a business class at the University of New Brunswick Saint John campus that has been evaluating the issue.

The first-year master of business students spent six-weeks working with a number of city departments, looking at various services, said assistant professor Kim Lemky.

"I wanted to do something more experiential," she said.

But Lemky says she can't reveal the findings for privacy issues.

$700K for recreation, community centres

The city has set aside more than $700,000 for recreation and community centres this year.

One of the issues the students studied was coming up with a way to measure the city's social return on investment on neighbourhood improvement, said Lemky.

"Sometimes at first they said, ‘Well what's the answer?’ And we’d say, 'They don't have the answers.'"

But the city's leisure services co-ordinator Barry Freeze says the city gets back ten-fold the $22,000 it spends at the Crescent Valley Resource Centre to fund one full-time position and one part-time.

"The social return on investment that we're getting is the connectivity that the citizens are getting to all the services," he said.

Mary Dorion is one of them. She participates in the centre's walking program with about a dozen other women.

"It's helping me with me self-esteem, it's helping me get to know other people in the neighbourhood," she said.