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Concerns arise ahead of budget vote

<p>With Halifax regional council poised to vote on the proposedmunicipal budget tomorrow, one councillor says approving a tax hike andadditional borrowing in the current climate of rising food and gasprices is “irresponsible.”</p>

With Halifax regional council poised to vote on the proposed municipal budget tomorrow, one councillor says approving a tax hike and additional borrowing in the current climate of rising food and gas prices is “irresponsible.”


“I’m very frustrated. I think council is living beyond its means,” Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said.


As it stands, she says she plans to vote against the budget.


Uteck’s concerns surround the overall average residential base tax and assessment increase of 5.7 per cent, and a borrowing scheme to leverage up to $28 million for capital projects to be repaid over 10 years.


During budget talks, council asked staff to increase police funding by $1.5 million for 32 more officers, and add $470,000 for 16 additional firefighters.


Uteck says she anticipates council will approve changes outlined in the staff report to be presented tomorrow, unwisely giving police and fire “carte blanche” to set their own funding parameters.


But Coun. Steve Streatch (Eastern Shore-Musquodoboit Valley), who made the motion for additional firefighters, says it was proven in his district last week when a forest fire broke out during the day, and many volunteers were away from home.


“Having some of these paid members in some of our communities now will be a godsend, and allow people to feel a little more comfortable,” he said.


As for additional police officers and RCMP, Streatch says, “Who am I to second-guess the superintendent or the chief?”


He says he supports both the modest tax increase and the one-time borrowing initiative.
“People have clearly said they want greater service, they want greater protection. We can’t do everything without having modest financial considerations,” he said.


rachel.mendleson@metronews.ca


 
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