Sackville residents who were led to believe earlier this month that they have the highest average residential tax burden in the province can breathe a sigh of relief that the claim isn’t quite accurate.
A new interim report on cities, towns and villages in New Brunswick – released in early May by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies – placed Sackville at the top of the list with the highest average residential tax burden at $2,194, putting the town ahead of Dieppe, Riverview and Moncton, and well above the provincial average of $1,078.
But those numbers simply didn’t add up for Sackville CAO Barry Carroll, who said he began to dig into why the figures seemed so inaccurate.
“They portrayed Sackville as being number one but that’s just simply not the case,” said Carroll.
The CAO said both the average value of homes and the municipal tax rate in Sackville are lower than in cities like Moncton and Dieppe so it didn’t make sense that Sackville was named higher on the list than those communities.
Although Carroll admits he’s unsure of what the average homeowner does pay in Sackville, he said local residents are definitely not dishing out as much as the report would have them believe.
The mistake, he discovered, lays with the way the results were calculated in the AIMS report.
“In the assessment, they included the Mount Allison properties and schools as residential,” said Carroll. In a larger city like Moncton, the impact of including those numbers wouldn’t be quite so huge, he said. But for a small town like Sackville, those figures bring the average up substantially.
“Obviously with only 2,500 residential properties, if you take the taxation from even a single building from Mount A, that’s going to skew the average. We’re unique, we’re not like Moncton or Dieppe. We have a big university in a small community.”
Carroll said the final report – which is due to be released in June – will include an explanatory note to explain why Sackville’s numbers show that the town has such a high tax burden.
Port Elgin and Dorchester’s numbers are both below the provincial average, with the village of Port Elgin showing a residential tax burden of $858 and Dorchester revealing a burden of $974.
Entitled Having Your Say, the AIMS report is gathering a range of statistics – from average tax burden and municipal tax rate to fire and police expenses as well as economic development and recreation spending.
The municipal report card project aims to help taxpayers find answers to some of their most pressing questions on a range of topics, including: governance; taxation; police and fire services; transportation; water, sewage, and waste disposal; economic development; recreation and culture. It will allow citizens of different towns and cities to compare the quality of service, municipal taxes and budgets in their respective municipalities.
Charles Cirtwill, executive vice president of AIMS, said putting more information in people’s hands will help to make municipal governments more accountable.
“The issue for the taxpayers in Sackville is about recognizing how much they’re paying, and do they think they are getting value for all that money,” he said.
Cirtwill said southeast New Brunswick has been experiencing an economic boom over the past three years and that has certainly had an effect on the burden placed on the taxpayers.
“My understanding is that several of the communities in that region are either engaging in investment in new infrastructure or are building some quality infrastructure for their local residents,” he said. “And, of course, that’s a choice the residents are fully entitled to make – if they want to pay extra taxes for extra services.”
Highlights from the Interim Municipal Report Card
Operating Costs (per capita)
Dorchester – $155
Port Elgin – $200
Sackville – $143
Provincial average – $167
Fire Service Operating
Costs (per dwelling)
Dorchester – $329 (10th highest in N.B.)
Port Elgin – $361 (sixth highest in N.B.)
Sackville – $73 (84th out of 102 municipalities)
Provincial Average – $168
Police Operating Costs (per capita)
Dorchester – $86 (lowest in N.B.)
Port Elgin – $93 (94th out of 102)
Sackville – $248 (fourth highest in N.B.)
Provincial average – $134
Recreation and Culture
Operating Costs (per capita)
Dorchester – $58
Port Elgin – $52
Sackville – $98
Provincial average – $113
operating costs (per capita)
Dorchester – $23
Port Elgin – $30
Sackville – $116
Provincial average – $40
Fees (per dwelling)
Dorchester – $159
Port Elgin – $115
Sackville – $118
Provincial average – $120
Water costs (per dwelling)
Dorchester – $175
Port Elgin – $138
Sackville – $216
Provincial average – $229
(Source: Having Your Say, Interim Municipal Report Ccard for N.B., AIMS, www.AIMS.ca