Today was the final step in the municipal budget process, with council voting unanimously 17-0 to pass the document they’ve been working on for the past few months. Notably, this was Chief Financial Officer (and general fiduciary badass) Jane Fraser’s final meeting with council. She’s retiring after a long career of public service and will be missed.
This year is the first time HRM’s budget joins the three comma club, clearing the $1 billion mark in spending with a total of $1,006,782,700.
Property taxes will be going up slightly this year, by one per cent, as a result of the budget. The means the average property tax bill will be increasing by roughly $21. But council learned in one of their final budget meetings this year there are a small number of expensive houses that drive up that average. Meaning for most people property taxes will go up by less than $20 this year. Since it’s a flat rate, commercial property tax bills are also going up by one per cent, which is an average increase of $436.
For full details on the budget you can read more from the city here. Or you can read our coverage from each of the budget committee meetings over the past few months.
Budget season started with the city’s CFO Jane Fraser seeking and getting approval to switch how we are taxed to a service-based model, which should in theory make taxation more equitable and efficient. Then council argued over very specific language about priorities, which is important for the various business units to meet those priorities. Then CFO Fraser came back and said (paraphrased): “Hey, if you want all these things, we’ve done the budget and this is what it’ll cost at this moment in time.” Then they met to approve capital projects in time for tendering them. And then the CAO and CFO (let’s get serious, mostly the CFO) explained how governmental budgets work. If you read nothing else in this link-heavy paragraph read this piece. Seriously, it’s the civics lesson everyone needs to hear. And then they approved the various department’s operating budgets:
- The administrative departments
- Increased the police budget
- Halifax Public Libraries (I still get choked up reading this one when Åsa Kachan, the city’s Chief Librarian, was talking about their food program and said “We don’t want people to feel shame for being hungry.”)
- The capital budget
- Fire and Emergency Services
- Halifax Transit
- Transportation and Public Works
- Parks and Recreation
- Planning and Development
And during the budget process, each of those departments had wishlists or things they could do with more money. Those were all added to the budget adjustment list, which was voted on in this meeting, and they were mostly all added to the budget.
Also, today the province of Nova Scotia announced property tax rebates for service-based businesses. The program is called the Small Business Real Property Tax Rebate Program, but small is not defined either by number of personnel or revenue. To check if your company is eligible follow the link above.
Thus ends the budget season.
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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