nb-mel-norton-podium-220

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton launched the service review process that will force commissions and departments to defend their budgets. (CBC)

Saint John council is launching a service review on Monday night where all of the city's commissions and departments will be forced to defend their budgets and explain the potential implications of seeing their budgets frozen.

The service review initiative was created by Saint John Mayor Mel Norton, who said he was frustrated at the lack of room council had last fall while hammering out the 2014 budget.

"Each department would have to assess their operations and provide to council essentially two options or two scenarios,” Norton said.

Those two options will include: what will happen to a department if there is no budget increase in 2015 and what will happen if the department only had an extra two per cent added for inflation?

This task will not be easy for some departments especially those with contract obligations for employees. For instance, the city is about to go to arbitration with the police union.

On Monday night, the fire department and four development agencies, including Discover Saint John and Saint John Industrial Parks, will be outlining their budgets and different scenarios.

The service review process is intended to take several weeks.

'I can't really think of any service that the city provides that the citizens would want to do without.'- Coun. Shirley McAlary

Coun. Shirley McAlary said the review is a useful exercise that will remind the public of the role the city government plays in Saint John.

"Every department has had to really go through and provide a written summary of everything that they do and how they operate. So, I guess it’s really a positive exercise for everyone, not just the people that are listening in but for the council and for the staff," she said.

While it may be a positive exercise, McAlary said it is unlikely the review process will lead to major cuts at city hall.

"I think most of the budgets right now are operating pretty close to the line,” she said.

"I can't really think of any service that the city provides that the citizens would want to do without,” McAlary added.