Property taxes are going up in Halifax. Services will likely be cut anyway.
In trying to prevent a large tax increase, Halifax councillors face another problem. They have to find more than $13 million in savings -- that means cuts.
“Everything that we’re going to be talking about is going to hurt,” said Paul Russell, councillor for district 15 and chair of the budget committee. “It’s not going to be an easy budget year at all.”
Back in November, staff proposed a eight per cent hike to the average tax bill and councillors directed staff to find a way to halve that. This week, a staff report outlined the possibilities in a long list of potential cuts or ways to raise revenue.
On the list is reductions to transit service and a 25-cent increase in fares.
“I think that’s absolutely the wrong place to cut budgets from,” one transit user told CTV Atlantic on Friday afternoon.
Another proposed cut would see the Halifax Regional Municipality reduce career firefighters through attrition at some stations outside the urban core.
The committee is floating the possibility of charging for street parking on Saturdays in Downtown Halifax and Dartmouth and is considering eliminating the senior snow program.
Reducing snow clearing from sidewalks and weekly green bin pick-up in the summer is also up for debate.
“Having them every two weeks will save almost a million dollars,” Russell said.
Arts are also on the chopping block, including $100,000 in grant money to Dartmouth’s Heritage Museum.
“Losing the $100,000 would mean we would have to shut our doors. We would not only shut our doors but we would lose our jobs and the community would lose access to the wonderful history that we have,” said Joanne Pepers, the manager and curator at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum.
The group started a letter writing campaign and is staying optimistic but is still concerned.
“It is just a proposed cut. However we’re very disappointed we’re on the list as a whole,” Pepers said.
All of items on the chopping block are just under consideration for now.
For the next two months, the budget committee will hear from each business unit with the city – libraries, Halifax Transit and others -- to consider options.
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