Halifax police budget sent back, firefighters budget approved
Council's budget committee looked at Halifax Regional Police and Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency budgets, both with 10 per cent increases causing a tax hike.
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Halifax regional councillors debated how to pay to protect the public on Wednesday, reviewing the policing and firefighting budgets for the 2018 fiscal year, totalling more than $150 million.
Those increases are the major driver for a 1.9 per cent, or $35, increase to the average property tax bill. That increase was already approved by council last year, but councillors held off on further increases – at least for now.
The Halifax Regional Police budget, recommended by the Board of Police Commissioners, included an extra $550,000 on top of the previously approved increase. That money would mainly go to hiring seven new employees.
Councillors voted to send that budget back to the Board of Police Commissioners to cut the extra $550,000.
Board chair Coun. Steve Craig told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that that doesn’t necessarily mean those extra seven employees won’t be hired.
“Nothing’s off the table here,” he said. “We’ll look at the total organization and see what leverage we can pull.”
The Board meets Feb. 26, and will put together that new budget, and then bring it back to council in March. Council will then have a choice: approve the original extra $550,000 or approve the new smaller budget.
Councillors also heard a request for more money for Halifax District RCMP, which is looking to hire six new officers, asking for $225,000 to start.
“I think you can well appreciate that the growth within Halifax District has been ongoing, and the regular members to respond to the needs of the district has not, in eight years,” RCMP Chief Supt. Lee Bergerman told councillors.
Bergerman said the new officers would help with what she calls growing pressures due to cannabis legalization, opioids, and mental health calls. Without the new hires, she said RCMP might have to cut school liaison officers.
Councillors voted to add that item to their budget parking lot – a growing wish list of budget items from each municipal department.
Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s budget got the green light on Wednesday, and councillors voted to add $840,000 in additional funding requests, including training materials and uniforms, to the parking lot.
“These are costs that have been historically underfunded,” CAO Jacques Dubé told councillors.
The parking lot total now sits at $2.6 million. If all those items are approved in late-March, that could mean an additional increase of $10.25 to the average property tax bill.