In Brief: This editorial, in the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, uses the AIMS Interim Municipal Report Card to show the need for fair value for the money taxpayers spend on municipal services. It says such information is vital if local councillors are to make informed and fair decisions.

The next stage of the Benefits Blueprint depends on engaging municipalities – and, as Saint John Councillor Bill Farren has pointed out, the chief task of municipalities is to protect taxpayers from rate increases and service erosion.

Saint John is where the growth will occur. Unless council makes value for money its top priority, city taxpayers will wind up paying the bill for infrastructure. For every tax dollar collected in Saint John, the municipality receives a measly eight cents.

Coun. Farren is scheduled to make a motion at next Monday’s council meeting calling on Enterprise Saint John to calculate the impact the energy boom will have on city services. We applaud him for taking the initiative. Saint John is changing, and councillors need better data to sort out how city services should be organized to meet the needs of a growing population.

Since May’s election, there has been a subtle shift in council’s approach to governance. Council is starting to sound like a responsible board of oversight – one charged with delivering services efficiently at a rate residents can afford.

The prospect of a sudden boom in the economy is spurring councillors to take a closer look at the city’s services and finances. But there are other reasons to do so, as a recent interim report card on municipal services revealed.

The report, compiled by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, compared per capita costs for public services in municipalities across the province. Saint Johners pay the highest rate for policing ($262 per person per year, compared to $243 in Moncton and $193 in Fredericton) and the second-highest rate for fire fighting ($522 per person per year, versus $327 in Moncton and $335 in Fredericton).

The demand on municipal services differs a bit from city to city. The demand for fair value does not. Looking at these comparisons, residents must wonder what they’re getting to justify higher service costs.

Growth will increase the demand on some city services. To avoid raising the property tax rate, council must determine what would give taxpayers the best value and manage its services accordingly.