SAINT JOHN – Saint John has the highest per-capita policing operating costs of any municipality in the province and is in the top third when it comes to the average residential tax burden, according to a new report card.

People in Saint John pay, on average, $262 per person for policing services, compared to a provincial average of $134, according to an interim report card on cities, towns and villages in New Brunswick.

The report looked at a three-year average from 2005 to 2007.

Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, the Halifax-based think tank behind the report, said it is no surprise that Saint John, the province’s largest city, has the biggest bill for police services per capita.

“The question you want to look at is: If Saint John (is the highest), how do other communities that look like it (compare)? So you want to take a look at places like Moncton, you want to take a look at Fredericton, you want to find those large urban centres and compare them.”

Moncton’s policing services cost $247 per capita while Fredericton’s was $197.

When it comes to the average residential tax burden, Saint John’s rate stood at $1,445 while Moncton’s was higher at $1,676. Fredericton’s rate stood at $1,743.

The provincial average was $1,078. Sackville had the highest average residential tax burden at $2,194.

When it comes to fire services, Saint John pays an average of $524 per dwelling, the second highest rate in the province. Oromocto, at $550, has the highest cost.

The lowest cost for fire services was in Beresford, at $38. The provincial average was $168.
The think tank’s interim report provides a snapshot of how much citizens in different municipalities pay for different services but doesn’t have information on whether they are receiving the best value for the money being spent.

“That’s where you get into questions like what’s your response time for fire calls,” Cirtwill said.

“It gets back to your crime rate, it gets back to your response rate in terms of crime, it get back to your closure rate, how many crimes are being solved – all of those things we couldn’t find.”

Cirtwill said he hopes voters, once they have been given more information about how much they pay for different services, will help push their local governments toward greater transparency by providing more information on the quality of municipal services.