Frederictonians are subject to one of the highest average residential tax burdens in the province.

That’s according to the Interim Municipal Report Card for New Brunswick released Wednesday by the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies. The report said the average household in the capital paid $1,743 in property taxes between 2005 and ’07.

That amount is the seventh highest of the 102 municipalities in the province and second highest of New Brunswick’s eight cities.

The results aren’t surprising, said Charles Cirtwill, executive vice-president of the Atlantic think-tank.

“You would expect your large urban centres to be on the high end of the tax bill,” he said.
It’s up to citizens to decide whether they’re getting good value for their money. He’s asking them to help find ways to measure the success of municipalities.

“The thing that will be key when we do the full municipal report card will be to adjust for that and determine if in fact the premium that Fredericton is charging is appropriate given the level of services that it is delivering.”

The highest average residential tax burden was in Sackville at $2,194. The provincial average for all municipalities was $1,078 while the average residential bill in a city was $1,537.

The village of New Maryland’s average residential tax bill was third highest in the province at $1,934 per residence. Oromocto’s was the 10th highest at $1,604 per residence.

Moncton and Saint John, the only communities larger than Fredericton, had average residential tax burdens of $1,676 and $1,445, respectively.

All three were in the 15 highest.

Anthony Knight, general manager of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce, said that’s worth noting.

“It demonstrates that larger urban centres, generally, have higher property assessment values and that translates into a higher rate of taxation,” he said.

Tax rates in Fredericton are competitive, he said. What drives up the bill is the assessed value of the property, which has been growing faster than inflation.

Tax burdens are just one of the measurements used in the report, which also ranks performance indicators such as municipal debt as a percentage of total property tax assessment, crime rates, cost of policing and fire services and per capita operating costs.

When it came to municipal debt as a percentage of total property tax, Fredericton fared well, hitting the top 12 at 0.2 per cent. In contrast, rates in Moncton and Saint John were at 2.4 and 2.6 per cent.

The report identifies Fredericton as having the second highest per capita operating cost at $354 per person.

But the report’s authors note that Fredericton includes a number of items in its general operating costs that other municipalities record in separate categories.

Tim Andrew, challenger for Fredericton’s mayoralty in Monday’s municipal election, said the numbers offer a stark contrast to council’s standard claim that Fredericton has the lowest city tax rate.

“The mayor always says we have the lowest tax rates, but this shows the average person is paying more property taxes than someone in Saint John.

“To say we’re not overtaxed compared to other people is not really true.”

And while the municipal debt rate may have looked good for 2005-07, that number is bound to hit the one per cent mark once the $100 million in projects the city has undertaken is added, he said.

Mayor Brad Woodside said the numbers need to be taken in context.

“It does speak to property values. It does speak to one’s choice to live where the services are,” he said.

Woodside said in the 2007 Citizen Attitude Survey residents gave high marks for the city and the quality of services it provides.

“When someone says we’re spending more than inflation, some of these factors are what the public is asking for and we’re trying to deliver those services,” he said.

Woodside said in the last four years the police force has seen a net increase of 12 officers and six civilians.

A recent binding arbitration decision saw firefighters awarded the equivalent of 4.5 per cent annual increases.

Woodside said good management has allowed the city to take on new projects while maintaining current tax ratios and maintaining the lowest debt ratio in the province.

Cirtwill defended the decision to put the information out before the election.

“AIMS doesn’t really exist to influence elections. We didn’t think it was going to have that much influence on the elections, so we released it.”

Cirtwill said more must be done to measure effectiveness of the resources deployed.