New Brunswick

More city jobs on the line with Saint John 'workforce adjustments'

Saint John councillors have approved letters to the police and transit commissions announcing further funding cuts for next year.

$6 million in cuts deal with long-term deficits, not part of COVID-19 budget measures

The Saint John Police Department is now facing $1.3 million in cuts as the city tries to deal with projected $10 million deficits in 2021 and 2022. (CBC)

Saint John councillors have approved letters to the police and transit commissions announcing further funding cuts for next year.

That brings $1.3 million in total budget cuts to police and $850 thousand to transit.

The move is part of $6 million in across the board city "workforce adjustments" to be implemented by the end of this year.

That amount was originally supposed to be $5 million but was increased after a decision last month by councillors to back away from a plan to charge permit fees for heavy trucks using city roads.

That proposal raised the ire of city-based industries and business groups like the Chamber of Commerce.

The cuts are an attempt by council to deal with $10 million deficits projected for 2021 and 2022 due to low assessment growth.

Fire department bears brunt

The fire department will bear the brunt of the added cuts with the planned workforce cost reductions increased from $1.36 million to $1.875 million. 

A report to city council June 22 will recommend how those cuts could be made.

New targets bring cuts to the city's inside workers and managers to $1.7 million.

Saint John Councillor David HIckey wants to know what budget cuts will do to community policing. (CBC)

The city's outside workers will face $300 thousand in further cuts to a total of $1.29 million. 

The letter approved Monday night  by council informs the Police Commission an originally planned $1.175 million reduction to its allocation will now increase to $1.3 million

Reductions to the Saint John Transit Budget - originally $750 thousand - will now be $850 thousand and could climb to $1 million.

"The decisions we have to make are not easy and we must put the best interest of taxpayers first," said Mayor Don Darling.

Councillor concerned

But the added cuts to the police budget are a concern for councillor David Hickey, who worries they could impact community policing.

"I want to know whether those kinds of cuts are on the table," said Hickey. "That's why I'm not comfortable with the way the letter [to the police commission] is written."

Hickey was the only councillor to vote against the letter which noted the Saint John Police Commission has ultimate authority to determine how and where cuts are to be made.

But the head of the Saint John Police Association says Hickey is right to be concerned about the fate of community policing. 

Duane Squires says the last time cuts to the department were contemplated - in late 2017 - community policing was on the block along with the drug and traffic units.

He says councillors have no idea how their vote will impact policing in the city.

"Seems a little premature to make a decision if you don't know what the outcomes are going to be," said Squires.

"And unfortunately if you are willing to make those decisions than you don't care."


Connell Smith is a reporter with CBC in Saint John. He can be reached at 632-7726


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