City of St. John's Budget 2022
St. John’s Board of Trade Calling on City of St. John’s to Share Details of Budget Preparation Including the Cost-Saving Options that were Explored
St. John’s, NL, December 15, 2021 – The St. John’s Board of Trade is concerned by the budget presented earlier this week. Many businesses and residents of St. John’s will see an increase in their tax bill as a result of this budget. Even more concerning is the fact that the city failed to outline the cost-saving options that were explored as part of the budget planning process.
We commend the city for maintaining services such as snow clearing and the pedestrian mall, which have direct positive impacts on business. However, 2020 and 2021 have been incredibly challenging for everyone. Many businesses in our community continue to struggle to survive, and a tax increase will make the struggle harder, slow our economic recovery, and make employment less secure. It is difficult to accept that taxpayers are being expected to make up the difference with no specific information shared about the options available or steps taken to avoid this situation.
“The very same businesses who are expected to absorb additional taxes are the ones who have been working diligently to do more with less, get creative with budget lines, and collaborate with others to deliver the same great service at less cost,” said AnnMarie Boudreau, CEO, St. John’s Board of Trade. “We want to know that the City of St. John’s applied the same rigor and creativity to their budget process before looking to taxpayers.”
We understand the city is facing increased costs and reduced revenues due, in part, to COVID-19. This is precisely why we asked the city to start discussions and assess options to balance the budget in early 2021 – allowing sufficient time for debate and input.
Budget engagement opened on July 7, 2021, and the results were published on December 2, 2021. It is our understanding that 76 people actively engaged, and feedback included:
- 51% did not support a mil rate increase to maintain current service levels;
- 50% did not support a tax increase if services could be increased;
- The business community did not want the shortfall passed on to business owners who are already struggling; and
- Suggestions to review asset ownership and the way in which recreational services are provided. [i]
- Be proactive and creative in reviewing alternate, more efficient service delivery models;
- Assess its complement of assets and operating/ownership structures to achieve savings;
- Look for efficiencies within its core departments; and
- Undertake the assessment and engagement process with urgency to allow for ample time for options to be developed, disclosed, and debated.
“It is disappointing to be in the position of having to accept tax increases when we have not been presented with options to avoid this well in advance,” said Justin Ladha, Chair, St. John’s Board of Trade. “It should not be accepted that the same level of service provision cannot be provided at less cost. We believe alternate models should have been explored to achieve this and debated amongst Council in a public forum.”
The St. John’s Board of Trade remains committed to working with the city and collaborating on ways to reduce spending, including assessing services and delivery models. We are calling on the city to (1) provide more detail on options assessed and (2) begin to plan for budget 2023 now to ensure we are not in this position again. It is critical to the success of our business community and future investment attraction that the City of St. John’s maintains an attractive business environment.
About the St. John’s Board of Trade:
The St. John's Board of Trade is Newfoundland and Labrador's business advocate. We are a community of more than 700 members, combining the collective power of industries, sectors, and diverse perspectives. Together, we are a developing a thriving business community in St. John's. Learn more: www.stjohnsbot.ca.
Amanda Eid, Manager of Communications and Engagement
709-771-9887 | firstname.lastname@example.org
[i] This data was provided by the City of St. John’s. See page 15 of Budget 2022 and beyond.