A new report says New Brunswick’s small municipalities are proving that bigger does not always mean better.

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies has released its first New Brunswick Municipal Performance Report, showing that the three best managed communities have fewer than 900 residents.

The report, released Tuesday, indicates that many smaller towns and villages are more efficient and effective in delivering services than larger centres.

The top 10 municipalities all have populations of 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.

“That’s great news,” Darrell Giggie, the mayor of Florenceville-Bristol, said after he was told of his community’s number one ranking.

“We’ve amalgamated since this survey was taken. But I hope we continue to hold the trophy.”

St. Martins and Grand-Manan finish the top five in fourth and fifth with an overall”B”.

“It’s a report on the best managed municipalities in New Brunswick,” the institute’s vice-president, Charles Cirtwill, said in an interview.

“It doesn’t answer why. It simply tells you what is the reality and, in New Brunswick, the reality is that small municipalities seem to be more effective and efficient at least in the period this looks at, which is 2005 to 2007.”

The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies is an independent, non-partisan think-tank based in Halifax.

A small community is also at the bottom of the AIMS’ list of 94 communities.

Lameque on the Acadian peninsula with a population of about 1,400 had the lowest score, a “D-“. The second lowest was Shediac with a score of”D”.

The three largest cities have nothing to boast about in the rankings.

Fredericton had the best showing at 22nd with a “B-” score. Moncton is further down at 53rd with a “C ” and Saint John finishes a dismal 82nd with an unimpressive mark of”C”.

Cirtwill said there is little consistency in the collection or publication of data on municipal spending.

For instance, he said people in Bathurst can see on a website exactly how much money the municipal government spent last year. But he said trying to find the same information for other communities is more of a challenge, and sometimes impossible.

“Municipalities like to call themselves ‘special’ or different,”he said.

“They say you can’t compare them to others because they have different accounting practices, service demands or climates.”

But Cirtwill said the bottom line 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.

“It was interesting to realize how different the reporting standards are,”he said.

“In Nova Scotia, the province has worked with the municipalities to create a reporting measure that is consistent for everybody. That might be helpful in New Brunswick as you have this ongoing conversation about whether there are too many municipalities, and how do we assess them. If you want to have that conversation, you really need to have a common means of comparison.”

He stressed that the final grade and rank do not tell the whole story. He said the grades must be viewed within a wider context of other available information and the experience of residents.

In Moncton, for example, the city scored lower than many municipalities because it spends more than the provincial average on fire and policing. But the city scored well for effective delivery of those costly services.

“When looking at the results for your community consider all the available measures and a comparison of absolute performance versus performance adjusted for context,”Cirtwill said.

Efficiency examines how the municipality spends tax dollars and effectiveness examines the extent to which a service or policy achieves its intended result.

The AIMS report calculated the final grade for each municipality by averaging the overall efficiency grade and the overall effectiveness grade.

Cirtwill said there were eight municipalities which did not provide sufficient data to grade.

They include Quispamsis, Chipman, Atholville and Tracy.

The report was made possible, in part, through the support of the New Brunswick Chamber of Commerce.