Tax hikes, budget cuts and increased transit area rates are among the options Halifax regional council is considering to make up HRM’s $30.4-million shortfall.

Council directed staff yesterday to find $14 million of the 2010-11 budget gap through these measures, including the elimination of inefficiencies and identifying new sources of revenue. A further $10 million in transit expansion is to be offset by transit rate increases.

The remaining $6 million is expected to be made up through tax increases.

Staff will now research these options and return to council in April with more concrete figures for, and consequences of, these methods.

HRM finance director Cathie O’Toole said despite the potential tax increases and budget cuts, residents should feel confident in the municipality’s fiscal health.

“We’re more self-reliant than some other municipalities, and we do have some flexibility,” said O’Toole. “We’re well positioned.”

The deficit was first brought before council on Feb. 23 in a report delivered by O’Toole. The report cited increased service costs, an increase in the municipality’s compensation model and the operating costs of new capital as the principal causes of the shortfall.

Mayor Peter Kelly said yesterday’s somewhat heated debate should give staff a sense of the direction council wants to take.

“This gives them a truckload of information to evaluate,” Kelly said.