New Brunswick

Fredericton mayor calls for higher taxes to curb urban sprawl

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the province should try to curb urban sprawl in New Brunswick, and it can start by raising taxes in outlying areas.

Mayor Mike O'Brien suggests higher tax rate or surcharges would ease financial drag from outlying areas

Mike O'Brien suggests people who want to live outside cities should at least pay for their share of services. (CBC)

Fredericton Mayor Mike O'Brien says the province should try to curb urban sprawl in New Brunswick, and it can start by raising taxes in outlying areas.

Residential and commercial development outside the capital city has become a major fiscal problem, he said, and people living outside municipalities aren't paying their fair share for the services they use.

"The solution is, you live where you want to live …  but you pay for what you get, what you have," O'Brien said in an interview Friday on Information Morning Fredericton.

The capital city's property tax rate is $1.42 per $100 of assessed value.

Meanwhile, in local service districts outside the city, the rate is 63 cents per $100, he said the morning after delivering his "State of the City" address.

"Everything that we have built or use in this city, we have to pay for," the mayor said. "We have to balance our budgets."

A government report almost 10 years ago found local service districts collectively received $58 million to $59 million in services that their taxes don't cover, an amount O'Brien said would have increased since then.  

My job as the mayor is to try to inspire people to be proud of their city, to look at our potential and sit down and explore avenues to make this wonderful city even better.- Mike O'Brien, Fredericton mayor

"If the cost has gone up for road maintenance, policing and other associated costs," he said.

"Who pays for that? The province of New Brunswick. And how do they pay for that? By tax incomes from other municipalities."     

Eventually, he said, more surcharges will be needed for people using municipal services. 

"The City of Fredericton has to provide the amenities for people that come in and work and play," he said. "It's a real cost to the taxpayers of Fredericton and we have to find a way for the cities to be compensated for that."

The mayor and councillors have made the case before about how much less taxpayers in say, Hanwell and New Maryland, contribute to the cost of recreation they enjoy in the city. In Hanwell, it's three cents per $100 assessment, in New Maryland, it's four cents, and in Fredericton it's 12 cents, according to Coun. John MacDermid.

O'Brien said Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton are the economic engines in the province and what happens in these cities "really matters."

"We have to have policies that really encourage urban agenda growth, density and make these urban centres, the regional centres for the larger region, and help economic activity," he said.

Down the road

In his address, the mayor also talked about the city's potential.

"My job as the mayor is try to inspire people, to be proud of their city, to look at our potential and sit down and explore avenues to make this wonderful city even better," he said.

He said Fredericton consists of great natural features, positive growth in business and decades of good governance.

O'Brien applauded the city for its rich history of being fiscally responsible, particularly when it comes to roads and city streets, and said city hall is protecting the investment of the taxpayers.

The city saves money every year because of the way it looks after infrastructure, and it's money that can be put back into other types of services.

"We look after this magical infrastructure deficit that people talk about," he said. "Theoretically, within another 20 years we could have … zero infrastructure deficit because we're repairing stuff.

"Other municipalities across Canada, very few, are as aggressive as we are."

Information Morning Fredericton