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City's municipal budget passes with little dissent

There were fleeting moments of tension among city councillors Tuesday,but in the end it only took them one afternoon of debate before votingin favour of the 2009-10 budget

There were fleeting moments of tension among city councillors Tuesday, but in the end it only took them one afternoon of debate before voting in favour of the 2009-10 budget for Halifax Regional Municipality.

This year’s fiscal plan didn’t pass unanimously, however, with a lone “nay” coming from Coun. Andrew Younger of East Dartmouth-The Lakes during the second session of the day at City Hall.

For her part, Coun. Sue Uteck of Northwest Arm-South End gave the budget her nod of approval with a disclaimer attached.

“Make no mistake, this is a 3.5 per cent increase to residents. This is not a flat tax rate,” she said. “Fourteen districts will now be paying a further increase in transit.”

Uteck was referring to recent changes to the city’s transit tax structure, which is now based on property assessments and a local rate instead of services primarily being paid for by urban taxpayers. But city officials said that overall the tax rate will remain revenue neutral.

From transportation to public safety, councillors discussed how all their focus areas are addressed under the budget -- which includes a 3.6 per cent rise in operating costs at $570 million and a gross capital amount of $159 million -- during the afternoon committee of the whole meeting.

“It’s a very lean budget,” said Coun. Russell Walker of Fairview-Clayton Park, who pushed for the budget to be passed early on. That motion was quickly knocked down.

Another hot topic discussed yesterday includes the need to set aside funds for Hurricane Juan clean-up and a mobile operations centre for the Emergency Measures Organization to better deal with situations such as the recent Spryfield-area wildfire.

City officials got their wish granted early --- they were hoping to have the budget finalized by June 2.

 
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