Halifax council votes for lower tax increase, reduced blue bag collection

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Mayor Mike Savage led the move to lower the tax increase for HRM residents.  (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Mayor Mike Savage led the move to lower the tax increase for HRM residents. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

The average tax bill in the Halifax region will not be going up as much as originally proposed in January.

The increase for the 2021-22 budget had been set at 1.9 per cent — or $38 more — for the average residential property.

On Thursday, Mayor Mike Savage suggested reducing the increase to one per cent, which would mean an extra $19 per property.

"We can do what we want to do and hold the line on taxes as much as we can," said Savage. "This is simply recognizing that we can help a little bit."

Money from a predicted $30-million surplus will be used to cover the reduced tax rate. Finance officials had recommended putting all of the surplus into reserves.

A few councillors expressed concern about the idea.

"We are creating a valley for ourselves which inevitably will result in a peak later on," said Coun. Sam Austin.

But most councillors agreed with the mayor.

"This is a no-brainer, people are under incredible stress," said Coun. Trish Purdy.

The vote was 14-3 in favour of the one per cent increase.

More planners, calmer traffic

The debate on the tax rate took place after council spent most of Thursday adding $11 million worth of extra items to the proposed budget.

They'll be paid for using some of the municipality's deed transfer taxes. Finance officials had predicted $30 million from property sales, but because of a hot housing market, they're now expecting $60 million.

Some of the extra items approved include:

  • $800,000 for 10 more planners and building inspectors.

  • $1 million for extra traffic-calming projects.

  • $2 million for quicker snow clearing of bus shelters.

Council also decided to keep weekly green cart pickup in the summer while reducing blue bag collection to every two weeks from every week. The change in recycling collection will mean an annual savings of $850,000.

A final vote on the proposed budget will take place May 4.

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