The future of Enterprise Saint John hangs in the balance as the five partner municipalities prepare their 2017 budgets.
The No. 2 partner — Quispamsis — has already proposed a 50 per cent cut to its contribution, reducing it to $56,000.
"We were caught off guard by their announcement," said Larry Hachey, chair of Enterprise Saint John's board of directors.
"The thing that really concerns us is the death of collaboration among the five cities. That's the thing that I think surprises us and probably concerns us the most."
Enterprise Saint John is an economic development agency serving the municipalities of Saint John, Quispamsis, Rothesay, Grand Bay-Westfield and St Martins.
'We were caught off guard by their announcement.' - Larry Hachey, Enterprise Saint John chair
In 2016 those communities together contributed $700,000 toward the budget for the not-for-profit organization.
Hachey says another $250,000 is collected from private sector partners and that funding could be in jeopardy if municipal support wanes.
Mayor not wavering
Although Quispamsis council has not yet given final approval to its budget, Mayor Gary Clark shows little sign of wavering on the recommended cut to the agency.
"In the end council determined we aren't receiving an appropriate return on our investment," said Clark.
"Our council is committed to ensuring that we maximize every dollar."
Clark says contributions the town makes to support Harbour Station, the Imperial Theatre, and other Saint John based regional facilities will continue.
But he also points to vacant commercial land along the town's Millennium Drive.
"As a council we don't believe ESJ has placed enough emphasis on bringing business to our town."
Rothesay, Grand Bay-Westfield support ESJ
For the moment the mayors of Rothesay and Grand Bay-Westfield are standing with Enterprise Saint John.
"Very supportive of economic development, especially in times when the economy is so poor," said Grand Bay-Westfield Mayor Grace Losier.
"I suspect that's not the time to cut your contributions to economic development."
Rothesay Mayor Nancy Grant echoed those sentiments.
"I think we do need economic development, no question about that," said Grant.
"And I don't think any of the municipalities can do that alone."
The current draft of Saint John's 2017 budget allocates $2,048,495 for its four development agencies, the same amount contributed for 2016, although it does not break down how much will be given to each agency.