Deed transfer taxes from hot housing market may fuel new HRM hires

·2 min read
Halifax Regional Council is considering a proposal to use money from deed transfer taxes to pay for more employees. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Halifax Regional Council is considering a proposal to use money from deed transfer taxes to pay for more employees. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Halifax's chief administrative officer wants to use the hot housing market to pay for 15 new HRM employees.

Jacques Dubé proposed the move at a council session on Wednesday.

"HRM has ambitions of a big city, but we're only resourced as a mid-sized municipality," he said.

The CAO pointed out that Halifax has 110 strategies and staff are currently working on 202 reports. Dube said the addition of new programs from the federal government, such as the Rapid Housing Initiative, is stretching staff too thin.

The total cost of the additional employees would be about $2.25 million. Dube said the money could come from deed transfer taxes collected from the sale of properties.

"The market is hot, for 2021 we're projecting deed transfer taxes of $60 million. This is a 50 per cent increase over the budgeted amount," said Dube.

Coun. Waye Mason supported the proposal.

"We don't have enough engineers, we don't have enough planners, we don't have enough staff to meet our ambitions," said Mason.

Vote later this month

Other council members had concerns. Coun. David Hendsbee is worried about holding the line on taxes, but Dubé assured council that between the surplus and the reserves, no additional tax increases would be needed.

Meanwhile, Coun. Shawn Cleary said he would like to see a list of the type of employees that need hiring. Cleary was the only one who voted against considering the idea.

Mayor Mike Savage does not believe the entire amount is needed and he'd like to see quarterly reports on who is hired.

"I'm not entirely comfortable adding that carte blanche," said Savage. "I'm not going to argue the amount right now because it will come back for discussion."

A final vote on the proposal will take place on April 21, when regional council deals with a long list of budget extras, including a dozen extra employees for the planning department to reduce wait times for development permits.

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