Debate on next year's budget for the Halifax municipality got underway on Tuesday and there's some pushback on a proposed 5.9 per cent increase to the average property tax bill.
Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé outlined a lengthy list of costs facing the municipality.
"Inflation, revenue losses from COVID-19, the need for action on climate change and the capital budget also have insufficient funds," Dubé said.
Dubé said unprecedented growth is creating challenges. He said Halifax is growing by the equivalent of the population of the town of Truro on an annual basis. The municipality could have more than a half million people within the next five years.
Municipal finance officials provided details of the proposed increase:
2.9 per cent or $58 would be added to the average tax bill to cover increased operating and capital costs.
Three per cent or $63 would be added to the average tax bill to cover climate change initiatives over the next four years, such as the electrification of the transit fleet.
Together, they would add a total of $121 to the average residential tax bill.
Coun. Becky Kent, who represents Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage, said her residents cannot handle that much of an increase.
"Just the thoughts of an increase like this can take a toll on those families," said Kent.
Mayor Mike Savage also said he could not support a 5.9 per cent increase because of the impact on small business owners already trying to recover from the pandemic. It would add $1,257 to the average commercial tax bill.
"They're dealing with enough right now and I think anything we can do to help is important," said Savage.
He asked staff to prepare a report with a 3.7 per cent increase as an alternative option. Coun. Tim Outhit agreed with that idea.
"Let's look at the pros and cons," said Outhit, adding that a 5.9 per cent increase "makes a lot of councillors and residents cringe, it isn't pretty."
Detailed budget discussions on individual departments are scheduled for February.
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