Another ‘embarrassing’ debate?

As budget deliberations begin at city hall tomorrow, Halifax regional councillors are cautiously optimistic that attendance won’t be an issue.

“I can’t see councillors not showing up for debate after last year’s embarrassment,” Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said.

Council had a tough time maintaining quorum — the bare minimum of councillors required — during last year’s budget deliberations.

More than half of the 24 elected members must be present for debate to continue. The number dipped below 13 several times last year.

But Coun. Linda Mosher (Purcell’s Cove-Armdale) says she hopes the open house sessions held last week will make the debate period more bearable, and boost attendance.

“We were able to talk one-on-one to all the applicable staff,” she said. “So that, I think, will cut down on the debate and the mundane questions.”

In past years, deliberations have kicked off in the week following the presentation of the proposed budget.

Before councillors begin slugging it out over this year’s proposed operating budget of $677 million, which includes a total tax hike of 5.7 per cent, they’ll have to tackle what Uteck calls “the big battle.”

City staff are expected to present a five-year transit plan before debate begins Tuesday to address the controversial fast ferry and much-needed improvements to the existing public transit infrastructure.

Councillors will also weigh in on a staff proposal that could add up to $28 million to the proposed $143 million capital budget, but would have to be repaid in the next 10 years. The move involves borrowing against $5.3 million in additional capacity, which comes from a decrease in debt-service charges.


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