News / Halifax

Halifax property tax could jump more than 2 per cent with council budget asks

Councillors are about half way through the process of putting together Halifax's 2018-19 budget, and the tax bill is climbing.

Halifax City Hall

Jeff Harper/Metro / Halifax Staff

Halifax City Hall

With a slew of proposed additions to their budget for the coming year, Halifax regional councillors are on track to raise the average property tax bill by more than $40.

Council is mid-way through the process of building its 2018-19 budget.

In December, it voted to direct staff to put together a budget with a 1.9 per cent increase to the average property tax bill – amounting to $35 on average. That increase will pay for millions of dollars in extra wages going to police and firefighters after an arbitration decision last year.

But since council starting meeting to debate the budgets of each municipal department, it’s put nine items into what it calls the “parking lot," sort of a wishlist of additions.

Council will debate these items – including money for continued extended ferry service, a pollution control study for Lake Banook, and a reduction in recreation fees – at the end of its process, deciding whether to add each item to the overall budget.

After Wednesday’s meeting of the budget committee, those parking lot increases add up to $1,435,000. If they’re all approved, the total budget would mean a 2.2 per cent increase in the average tax bill – $40.66 on average.

Mayor Mike Savage argued against a few additions on Wednesday.

“We have to be pretty diligent,” he said.

“I’ve seen this before. Once it goes to the parking lot, it’s two steps closer to being passed.”

The mayor voted against that one, to add $200,000 to the tree-planting budget, but despite objections, he voted in favour of Coun. Sam Austin's other motion to consider continuing extended ferry services, to the tune of $550,000.

Coun. Shawn Cleary attempted to put some savings in the parking lot, proposing to cut $4 million from the budget for paving roads. That motion didn’t pass.

Cleary argued the municipality should wait for its new road-building standards before building new roads, but he also wanted to offset the million dollars worth of additions in the parking lot.

“It’s not that those things aren’t worthy. Many of them are,” Cleary said.

“But this was an opportunity for us to find some savings, and in fact significant savings.”

Deputy Mayor Waye Mason, one of 10 votes against that proposal, argued that saving money by cutting the road budget would be like saving money by not fixing a leaking roof.

Council will finalize the budget in a series of meetings over the next two months.

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