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Halifax diverting debt payments to deal with rapid growth

Halifax Regional Municipality is changing the way it deals with debt.

Halifax Regional Municipality is changing the way it deals with debt.

After several fiscally conservative years, Regional Council voted yesterday morning to decrease the amount of money currently being channeled each year into debt repayment – and divert it toward helping the city cope with rapid growth.

According to a release issued yesterday afternoon, the new five-year debt policy will still see debt decline by three per cent each year, but will free up some money to allow the city to invest in other projects. Under the old policy, HRM could borrow up to 80 per cent of the amount of debt paid in any given year.

Chief Financial Officer Cathie O'Toole said the change was made in response to the city’s rapid expansion over the past few years.

O’Toole added that some of the money could help to finance the new four-pad hockey arena in Hammonds Plains, which is currently facing an $18.5-million funding shortfall.

During the afternoon session of council, the ongoing effort to cut down on bureaucracy at city hall got caught up in, well, bureaucracy, as councillors debated a new committee structuring plan for the municipality.

Rather than the current system in which dozens of committees have been created to address various issues, staff presented councillors with the option of creating four standing committees that would report to council on everything from environmental sustainability to transportation.

After debating the proposed change for over an hour, council ultimately voted to send the report back to staff for further consultation.