New Brunswick

Fitch plans local governance reform talks

Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch is launching a public consultation process that will examine the province's property taxation and assessment regime, regional delivery of services and municipal funding deals.

Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch is launching a public consultation process that will examine the province's property taxation and assessment regime, regional delivery of services and municipal funding deals.

Fitch said the public consultation phase will start this week and is intended to allow the public to get involved in resolving some contentious local governance issues.

"This process will garner a lot of interest, and we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to be heard," Fitch said in a news release.

"We will take the time to get this right, because we are committed to bringing positive change to the system."

The Progressive Conservative government has committed to revisiting the idea of local governance reform.

Although forced amalgamations have been ruled out, Premier David Alward said in his annual state of the province speech the system of having more than 300 municipalities and local service districts was unsustainable.

Alward said his government planned to look at ways to reduce duplication.

Both Alward and Fitch have expressed an openness to revisiting elements of a report written by Jean-Guy Finn for the former Liberal government.

Specifically, Finn said the number of local governing bodies must be cut to between 50 and 55.

In his report, Finn argued the provincial government should have between 50 and 55 municipalities that would each have a minimum of 4,000 residents, or approximately $200 million in property tax assessment revenue.

Fitch said the public consultation process that he is rolling out will be delivered in two phases.

The first phase, which starts now and will end in April, will target the concept of regional service delivery. During this part of the process, the provincial government, local governments and service providers will be involved in the discussion.

The second phase, which will unfold between April and June, will bring the public into the debate and focus on regional services delivery, property taxation and assessment and on municipal funding options.

The provincial government has not released the locations for the various public meetings.

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