Mayor Kelly and CAO Dan English release Statement on 2010/11 budget

A joint statement from Mayor Peter Kelly and HRM CAO Dan English was released Tuesday evening on the current 2010/11 Halifax budget.

(April 13, 2010) – Halifax Regional Municipality is facing a
significant funding gap as staff prepares to table the 2010/11 budget.
This gap, in the order of $30 million, will require HRM to pursue all
possible means of saving money.

While funding gaps are not new to municipalities of our size, there is
a difference this year as assessments are essentially flat. This is due
to the assessment cap, which now applies to 78 per cent of homes in HRM,
as well as to the lingering effects of the worldwide recession.

As we strive to meet demands for expanded municipal services, address
aging infrastructure, and contend with the rising costs of commodities,
we are keenly aware that we cannot find more money through increased
property values and assessments on new properties.

Therefore, we are left with difficult choices between cuts to services,
identifying sources for higher revenues, tax increases, or a combination
of all of these options.

This is indeed a problem, but not an insurmountable one in a municipal
operating budget that exceeded $570 million last year and will again
this year.

Both Council and staff are committed to finding a way through our
current fiscal challenges, and striking the delicate balance between
respecting the finite means of residents to pay more, protecting
municipal services, and meeting our commitment to the dedicated
individuals who make up our public service. In municipal government our
people are our strength – they protect our neighbourhoods, provide
valuable programs, build our infrastructure and deliver front-line
services to citizens.

Council will listen to the well-considered input from staff, including
the many suggestions that both of us received from all quarters of this
organization. Ultimately, Council will make its final decisions based on
what is in the collective best interest of the residents we serve.

While these discussions between staff and Council, and around the
Council table, do not promise to be easy, we firmly believe they will
produce a solid budget for the year ahead.

Important – albeit difficult – decisions are already being made.
Council this evening approved staff’s recommendation to not open
Visitor Information Centres in the urban areas and in Sackville, and to
work with Destination Halifax toward the operation of the rural Visitor
Information Centres, perhaps in partnership with Regional Tourism
Industry Associations.

Council also voted in favour of expanding burial services in municipal
cemeteries along with including additional columbarium services. This
service enhancement will move municipal cemetery operations from a
$400,000 annual cost to a source of revenue estimated at $55,000 to
$100,000 per year.

Halifax Regional Municipality has a strong history of sound financial
management. Council and staff will continue to build on that tradition
and continue to work together to ensure we remain prudent keepers of the
public purse.

Mayor Peter Kelly

Dan English, CAO


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