Questions and Answers

Why is the City facing financial challenges?

The City faces a “structural” deficit, which means that our expenses are growing faster than our revenues. Each year, expenses are increasing by about 3%, while revenues (from tax base growth) only average an increase of 1%. For 2021 and 2022, projected deficits are expected to be around $9 million and $11 million respectively.

While controlling costs is one part, part of the challenge has to do with how cities in New Brunswick are funded. Provincial legislation and rules can limit our revenues and prevent us from finding other revenue sources.

The City must make budget reductions in the short-term and continue to advocate for fundamental changes from the Province to bridge the gap between growing costs and low revenue growth.

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Why is the focus on 2021 and 2022? What’s happening now and what will happen after 2022?

In 2018, the Provincial government committed bridge funding to the City of $22.8 million over three years. The last year for this funding is 2020.

The Province is working with all eight cities in New Brunswick on a series of important reforms to help cities become more financially sustainable.

There are a number of areas that the province controls that directly affects Saint John’s revenues as well as some of our costs. With provincial reforms of 2020 and beyond, we will be empowered and better positioned to grow.

Learn more about provincial reforms

The Province of New Brunswick is an important partner in making the fundamental changes needed to put Saint John on solid financial footing for 2023 and beyond.  The City will continue to advocate for these changes, and commit to working with the Provincial Government, the Greater Saint John Region and other New Brunswick municipalities to achieving success. To review the plan, visit Sustaining Saint John – A Three Part Plan.

What is the City doing to contain costs and address the budget deficit?

The City is looking across the entire organization for opportunities to be more efficient and reduce costs. Since 2017, the City has reduced its annual operating budget by just over $1.8 million through efficiencies and cost savings alone. We must continue this effort and dig deeper across the board.

Council has directed that half of the projected deficit, or approximately $5 million, be addressed through adjustments to the workforce.

The City has also been considering some 60 different possible actions related to our services, fees and facilities. At each meeting, Council reviews a group of these proposals. After this discussion, some proposals are forwarded for further consideration, while others are taken off the table. It’s important to know that no final decisions have been made yet.

When will any reductions or changes to services be implemented?

All initiatives to address the budget shortfall will occur at some point during 2020, and decisions will be made by March of 2020 so that changes can be completed in time for the 2021 budget.

In early 2020, four workforce groups will be in the collective bargaining process. Timing for some workforce adjustments will depend on the timelines for these processes.

What impacts will these reductions or changes have on the future of the City?

We need to deliver municipal services on a smaller, affordable budget. Our City’s long-term future will also depend on growing our tax base and population, and the overall success of transformational reforms.

While we must address our financial reality, Saint John has many factors that make it a vibrant and welcoming City. This will serve us well in the future.
•    We have a population growth plan with dedicated resources and are gradually beginning to see population growth.
•    We have made strategic investments in our uptown core and have developed a number of economic development plans to fuel further growth.
•    We have a growing entrepreneurial spirit and strong, diverse economy.

What can I do to help with the City’s goal to grow and prosper?

•    Share news through social media about the benefits of living, working and visiting Saint John.
•    Talk about the importance of growth and progress Saint John is making to friends, family and government officials.
•    Celebrate our achievements, big or small.
•    Support local Saint John businesses.
•    Support opportunities for new investment in Saint John.
•    Contribute to Saint John’s collective effort in becoming the most welcoming City in Canada.
•    Demonstrate your support for the City and necessary reforms by writing your provincial MLA. If you live outside the City you can contact your municipal government.