There’s a $13.9-million “funding gap” in HRM’s budget and council will decide what to do about it tomorrow.

Staff will present a budget update to the Committee of the Whole and the news isn’t great: They need to find $13.9 million for the 2011-12 budget and $15.6 million in 2012-13.

Basically council has to trim services or find the money elsewhere, Mayor Peter Kelly explained yesterday.

“For us it’s time to step back and look at how we conduct our business and is there a more cost-efficient way to provide the services?” he said. “Are we providing more than we can afford or what the public want?”

One slide in the staff presentation says: “We have hit the wall: Cut services or increase taxes.”

HRM faced a $35.5-million shortfall when it crafted this budget and made some cuts. But by the time some of those items (such as fee hikes and bus services) came forward to council for cutting approval, council balked.

“Once council decides what those service levels are going to be, no matter what they are, the more they don’t adhere to it then the more cost pressures they bear to the operations,” Kelly said.

The staff presentation shows $13.9 million can be made up by the fall of 2011 from collecting $3 million from efficiencies, $3.5 million from continuing vacancy management of staff, and $6.5 million from operating funding reductions.

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