Bigger does not always mean better and it appears for New Brunswick municipalities sometimes less really is more. AIMS’ first Municipal Performance Report for New Brunswick shows the top three communities have fewer than 900 residents.
The report consistently sees smaller municipalities appearing to be more efficient and effective than larger centres; the top 10 have populations less than 2,500.
The top positions are held by Florenceville, Cambridge-Narrows, and Port Elgin, finishing one, two and three; all with overall “B+” grades. St. Martins and Grand-Manan finish the top five in fourth and fifth with an overall “B”.
As AIMS gathered publicly available data for this report card it became apparent there is little consistency in the collection or publication of data on municipal spending. People in Bathurst can see on-line exactly how much money the municipal government spent last year, but trying to find that information in other communities is more of a challenge, and sometimes impossible
“Municipalities like to call themselves ‘special’ or different,” says AIMS Executive Vice President Charles Cirtwill. “They say you can’t compare them to others because they have different accounting practices, service demands or climate.”
The bottom line says Cirtwill is that taxpayers should know how much money is collected, how much money is spent, what services are provided, and whether those services are effectively and efficiently delivered.
The final grade and rank do not tell the whole story in the municipal performance report and they must be viewed within the wider report and indeed within the wider context of other available information and your own knowledge and experience. When looking at the results for your community consider all the available measures and a comparison of absolute performance versus performance adjusted for context.
This context is determined by ‘Input measures’, which are factors that will influence the policy and strategies of the administration but are generally outside of the municipality’s control. We have broken these inputs into three categories: People & Place examines items like population and geographic size; Financial History considers prior fiscal performance and support coming from outside the municipality; Socioeconomic Status is an index of things like employment, unemployment and education levels, telling us about the kinds of challenges and opportunities the people in the community face on a daily basis.
The AIMS Performance Report grades municipalities based on the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery using a three year average (2005, 2006 and 2007). Efficiency examines how the municipality spends tax dollars and effectiveness examines the extent to which a service or policy achieves its intended result. These measures are further broken down into absolute, in-context and total. The absolute grades measure the performance of each municipality relative to the rest of the municipalities in the province. The in-context grades measure performance relative to reasonable expectations based on that municipality’s Input measures (explained above). In context, municipalities are expected to do at least as well as other municipalities have done in similar circumstances.
The final grade is calculated for each municipality by averaging the overall efficiency grade and the overall effectiveness grade. We do publish all available data for municipalities for which we were not able to secure a complete dataset. They are listed alphabetically at the end and are not given a final overall grade.
This work was made possible, in part, through the generous support of the New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce.
- To read the complete New Brunswick Municipal Performance Report, click here.
- The view a summary of the results, click here.
- To access the guide to the report, click here.