Saint John’s Municipal Shopping Cart

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We had a big crew over the Easter weekend that left the cupboards a little bare, so Monday morning off I went to our local supermarket to replenish our bare shelves. After a half hour of going up this aisle and down that aisle I ended up at the check-out with a cart full of everything from bagels to bacon. Ka-ching, ka-chink, ka-ching I watched as the items made their way down the belt and were rung through.

“Will that be cash or debit” the smiling cashier said indicating that the last item had gone down the belt.

“Debit” I replied.  I inserted my card…..waited…. …..Total $312.69…. press ok,…..Enter PIN number and the supermarket has my money and I have my groceries.

The cashier passes me a little piece of paper with the words “WE APPRECIATE YOUR BUSINESS” and the total $312.69.  I look at the slip and ask ” Where is the itemized list with the price for each item?”

She smiles and replied; “Oh, it’s our new policy, the company has decided that you don’t need an itemized list with prices”.

I protest: “But I would like to know how much I am charged to make sure that I am not overcharged and I like to compare prices with your competition, I would like t make sure ‘m getting the best deal”.

She smiles, shrugs and says: “Sorry, it’s our new policy”

Now I’m really pissed; “I’d like to see the manager and I’m not leaving until I see an itemized receipt for the stuff I’ve bought”.

The manager shows up and advises me in a rather stern voice that if I don’t take my groceries and leave he will call the police. I refuse to leave so the manager glaring at me picks up the phone and dials 911.  I decide I had better get the hell out before I’ve had a chance to “the men in blue”.. Saint John’s finest.

Did this really happen….no, I fabricated my little satirical saga in an effort  to make a point.

Since I have spent a good part of my working life in a highly competitive business my company  adopted the practice of bench marking. How did our quality of service and product pricing compare with the competition?  What adjustments and tuning would we have to make to stay in the game. Would bench marking  seem like a reasonable approach for the “Renaissance City” looking to move up the ranks of best and most desirable cities in Canada?

From time to time I take a look at the  Saint John’s operating budget and compare it with cities like Moncton, Fredericton as well as others. I like to know and compare on a per capita basis how we stack up…..as taxpayers what do we receive  for what we pay. If a dozen eggs at one store is $3.99 and $1.99 at another store, where are you going to buy your eggs?  I believe over the long term most folks adopt the same approach to finding the best value when choosing a community to put down roots and raise a family. Would you agree?

Get your shopping cart ready and let’s do a little community shopping.

Did you know that in 2015 Moncton with a population of 69,074  raised  $125,608,842  from residential property taxes with a tax rate of 1.6393 while Saint John with a population of 70,063 raised $118,325,922 with a tax rate of 1.785? (sources Moncton and Saint John financial operating statements)

How is it possible that Moncton with a smaller population and a lower tax rate can raise $7,000,000 more in annual residential tax revenue? (This is a skill testing question for our Common Council and City management, let’s see if they come up with the right answer).

For the shopping cart here is the Saint John Public Safety Services Total:

saint-john-protection

 

 I know that I am paying $52,000,000 but what am I getting for my tax dollars?

 and Moncton:

Moncton-protection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the typical average family in Moncton it’s easy for me to see what I pay and what I receive in services.

I haven’t taken the time to compare Parks and Recreation as well as all the other departments in an effort to show best value, however for those that would like to go through the exercise you can do so at:  Moncton and  Saint John.

Given that our current Common Council identified accountability and transparency as top 2016-03-28_1411priorities do believe what we the the taxpayers  are being offered as “detailed information” is acceptable in a world where progressive communities use bench marking as a tool to demonstrate cost effectiveness and value?

If as consumers we are not  willing to accept a receipt for $312.69  that lacks a detailed itemized list for a cart of groceries then why are we prepared to accept a property tax bill for thousands of dollars and budgets for tens of millions of dollars without demanding detailed prices for what we receive in our municipal shopping cart?

Think about it.

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