Commissioner of the Future of Local Governance
Report on the future of local governance released (08/12/18)
Dec. 18, 2008
FREDERICTON (CNB) - A final report on the province's local governance system was released today, offering a number of recommendations and potential solutions to the challenges facing coummunities in New Brunswick.
The report, Building Stronger Local Governments and Regions: An Action Plan for the Future of Local Governance in New Brunswick, was developed over the course of one year by Jean-Guy Finn, commissioner on the future of local governance. The report builds on more than 25 studies conducted on various aspects of local governance in New Brunswick since 1967.
"This report is about a vision of local governance for the future," Finn said. "These recommendations would build a local governance system that better reflects New Brunswick's present and projected social and economic conditions; empowers local communities and regions; allows for greater integration; is more accountable; and is able to compete with the best in the country because it runs efficiently."
The Commission on the Future of Local Governance was established in September 2007 following the final report of the New Brunswick Self-Sufficiency Task Force, The Road to Self-Sufficiency: A Common Cause. The task force recommends that New Brunswick communities, through local governments, be positioned to contribute collectively to achieving self-sufficiency by 2026.
"This report suggests the necessary steps to build the local governance structure we need to secure a self-sufficient future for our province," Finn said.
Finn said that his report's proposals are aimed at achieving four goals:
- to improve local governance and to adjust local governance institutions to better serve today's socio-economic communities;
- to organize local governments that effectively and efficiently serve and strengthen their respective communities and economies;
- to transform the current structure into a more coherent and effective system, and;
- give unincorporated areas a voice and decision-making authority regarding local services and issues.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Following are the commissioner's recommendations in brief. MEDIA CONTACT: Brendan Langille, Communications New Brunswick, 506-471-3264.
Recommendations in brief
Refer online for maps for proposed new and reconfigured municipality boundaries.
- all residents represented and governed by elected municipal councils, except where a separate and distinct form of local government has been instituted for the Aboriginal population under federal legislation;
- incorporated municipal governments (a total of 53) covering the entire province; and
- present local service districts, rural communities, villages and most towns reconstituted into larger municipal units.
Refer online for maps for proposed new and reconfigured municipality boundaries.
- regional service districts and boards (12) established to cover all of New Brunswick;
- regional service district boards comprised of the mayors and one or more elected municipal officials delegated by each municipal council within the district;
- cost of regional service district administration, services and programs funded mainly by the participating municipalities;
- regional service district boards not authorized to levy taxes;
- current district planning commissions, solid waste commissions and community economic development agencies dissolved and staffs reassigned to the appropriate regional service district; and
- province provides multi-year transitional funding to each regional service district to assist with initial start-up and transition costs.
- certain services (planning, solid waste management, policing, emergency measures and economic development) offered exclusively through regional service districts;
- integrated regional approach to policing services implemented within two years of the establishment of the regional service district, at which point present inter-municipal police commissions, where they exist, are dissolved;
- regional service districts made responsible for regional emergency measures planning and management in their respective geographical area through an integrated approach across mandates and levels of government;
- community economic development closely integrated with land-use planning and forms a component of a regional strategic plan for each of the regional service districts;
- regional economic development activities and programs cost-shared among the municipalities, the province and the federal government; and
- provincial government mandates each of the regional service districts to undertake and complete, within five years of their establishment, a review of fire prevention and suppression services and provide future directions.
Fiscal and taxation regimes
- each regional service district mandated by legislation to develop and administer a regional strategic plan;
- Community Planning Act amended to transfer the responsibility for the preparation and administration of regional strategic plans from the province to the regional service districts.
- provisions for public participation at the stage of developing the initial regional strategic plan in each region; and
- over time, planning positions in the provincial government, regional service districts and municipalities staffed with recognized professional planners.
Accountability and transparency
- current provincial unconditional grant funding system to municipalities abolished;
- elimination of the current provincial non-owner-occupied residential tax rate and reduction of the provincial non-residential tax rate to $1.50 from $2.25;
- tax room made available from the provincial government to municipalities equal to non-owner-occupied residential ($1.50) and non-residential ($0.75);
- four municipal property tax classes established at the municipal level to accommodate the tax room transfer: residential owner-occupied, residential long-term rental, residential other, and non-residential;
- revenue-raising disparities among the proposed 53 municipalities addressed through an equalization transfer mechanism;
- province-wide, centralized, uniform, market-based approach for property assessments maintained;
- each municipality establishes area-specific property tax rates for each property class corresponding to the type and level of services available in each area;
- cost of providing local services in the former local service districts recovered through the property tax rate(s) over an appropriate transition period;
- provincial differential tax treatment for non-residential and non-owner-occupied residential properties in the former unincorporated areas ends;
- province extends the 44-cent tax rate to all former local service district properties and adjusts rate annually towards full recovery of the cost-of-road services in former local service districts using an appropriate transition period;
- 65-cent provincial levy in former local service districts reduced by 20 cents and the cost of policing services in the former local service districts recovered from the local tax rate(s) established in the former local service districts; and
- non-owner-occupied residential properties operated on a not-for-profit basis considered for partial property tax relief and cost of such relief absorbed by the provincial government.
- establishment of municipal government performance measures and common reporting framework;
- introduction of clearer and more practical guidance regarding municipal councils' closed and open meetings;
- establishment of guidelines regarding the disclosure of municipal campaign contributions and development of a corresponding reporting mechanism, prior to the next municipal election;
- municipalities required to publish, using a common format, the details of their annual budget (via the Internet and / or newspapers) specifying, among other items, shares of the budget to be allocated to various services; and
- establishment of a municipal affairs commission with the mandate to offer independent advice in instances of disputes regarding municipal boundaries, future restructuring initiatives, regional service delivery agreements and matters of conflict of interest.
- consolidation of various statutory provisions dealing with the general organization and operation of local governments under a new and comprehensive Local Government Organization Act;
- consolidation of various statutory provisions regarding municipal financing under a new and comprehensive Financing of Local Services Act;
- use of a spheres of jurisdiction approach in outlining the by-law-making powers and responsibilities of municipalities; and
- examination of various provincial review and approval requirements for municipal by-laws to ensure continued relevance and necessity.
- provincial functions relating to local governance integrated and placed under the responsibility of a single department within the provincial government;
- establishment of an interdepartmental steering committee of deputy ministers to oversee the implementation of government decisions pertaining to the recommendations contained in this report;
- current funding transfer from the province to municipalities and local service districts continued until the proposed new municipalities and regional service districts are established and functional;
- as part of the transition process to the new governance system, a provisional committee established for each of the proposed 53 new or reconfigured municipal units; each provisional committee to consist of representatives of existing municipalities, local service districts and / or rural communities forming the proposed municipal unit; and each provisional committee charged with boundary review and confirmation for its respective proposed municipal unit; and
- multi-year targeted funding provided to facilitate the establishment and operation of the proposed regional service districts.