New Brunswick

Saint John to hold back full funding to development agencies

Saint John council is proposing to hold back half of next year's funding for three city economic development agencies until a new growth plan is developed.

Enterprise Saint John, Saint John Development Corporation, Industrial Parks will get funds for six months

Saint John Mayor Don Darling says the three agencies can help the city develop its new growth plan. (CBC)

Saint John council is proposing to hold back half of next year's funding for three city economic development agencies until a new growth plan is developed.

Enterprise Saint John, the Saint John Development Corp. and Saint John Industrial Parks will get what Mayor Don Darling describes as "stable funding" for the first six months of the new year.

The arm's-length agencies will only learn about further funding sometime in the spring.

Darling said the agencies will be expected to assist in the development of the new growth strategy.

"What we're doing is saying, 'Work with us, communicate with us'," said Darling.

"We're going to communicate with them, we'll be communicating with all the agencies what this decision means tonight."

We've got to get the growth going.- Saint John Mayor Don Darling

The latest draft of the city's 2017 budget sets aside an envelope with full funding for the three agencies, but there is now no guarantee the money will be divided up the same way in the second half of the year.

The document also includes $450,000 for a new growth reserve fund to be used to help bring more people to the city, create new employment and increase the tax base.

Saint John's growth has remained stalled for at least three years.

The city's tax assessment base barely moved in 2016, increasing by 0.59 per cent.

"If we keep plodding along with … you know growth under 1 percent, it's going to be pretty difficult for us," said Darling.

"So we've got to get the growth going."

Enterprise Saint John is one of three arms-length economic development agencies that will learn about the remaining 50 percent of its funding sometime after completion of the city's growth strategy in March. (Connell Smith)
The city's proposed operating budget for 2017 rings in at $154,021,467.

That includes an unanticipated million dollar lift from the assessment increase and a $302 thousand increase in the provincial government's equalization grant to the city.

Much of the added revenue will be used for the growth reserve fund: $450,000, with another $467,000 transferred to the city's capital budget to reduce borrowing costs for road work and other capital purchases.

Jeff Trail, the city manager, said the municipality is trying to avoid cuts to city services next year.

"We are extraordinarily lean in this budget," said Trail.

"This will not be easy to deliver."

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