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Council mulls budget cuts

Compared to cutting $35.5 million last time, $13.9 million should be a breeze.

Compared to cutting $35.5 million last time, $13.9 million should be a breeze.

Halifax regional council started three days of budget presentations and debate yesterday with a pep talk by Wayne Anstey, acting chief administrative officer.

“It’s a challenge ... there will be some hard decisions to make but it’s not the end of the world.”

He said the $13.9-million shortfall in 2011-12 represents only two per cent of their budget.

Cathie O’Toole, director of finance, suggested the municipality live within its means and not start any new services unless it can pay for them.

She said they can make up the shortfall by saving $3.5 million in staff vacancies, $3 million in service reductions, and a $6.5-million reduction in operational funding. There will be no increase in property taxes — assessments are capped at 2.9 per cent.

But some people — like those who recently bought a house for example — will pay more than the 2.9 per cent. Coun. Jackie Barkhouse suggested administration may be management heavy and Mayor Peter Kelly said possible job reductions can be addressed by council in a private meeting this morning.

Coun. Gloria McCluskey was fired up about combining Destination Halifax and Greater Halifax Partnership into one entity.

She went so far as to make a motion, but backed off and decided to wait for a report coming to council in late January.

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