Tax reform may be off the table for now in HRM, but it’s certainly not off the minds of many municipal councillors.

“I think there is still a desire and a willingness to look at this to see how we can make it more reflective of the public,” Mayor Peter Kelly said Tuesday just minutes after council voted 13 to 10 against moving forward with the reform proposal.

If approved, the project could have converted the current assessment-based property tax system to one where people would be charged based on the municipal services they receive.

Kelly admitted the current system is still inherently unfair in many ways (for example, condo owners are often charged full municipal fees for services they share with others in their building), and he hopes council will continue to look at how to improve it.

“It may mean taking it piece by piece, but at least we can bring that change forward,” he said.

Coun. Tim Outhit was less optimistic about the future, calling Tuesday’s decision “a missed opportunity.”

“Staff that had worked on this for five years feel incredibly defeated,” he said yesterday. “There are other things we can do to deal with some of the problems with the assessment-based system ... but I don’t see (complete tax reform) coming back before 2012. It’s not going to happen.”

During Tuesday’s debate, several councillors suggested bringing the issue directly to the people of HRM, who could cast their ballots for or against tax reform in a referendum in 2012. The mayor said he didn’t think that would fly.

“To expect people to read (a tax reform proposal) and fully understand the whole system would be a challenge,” he said, gesturing to the inch-thick document on the desk behind him. “At the end of the day, it’s a yes or no question here at council.”

How council voted on tax reform process
• Votes in favour of continuing the tax reform process (10): Barry Dalrymple, Bob Harvey, David Hendsbee, Debbie Hum, Brad Johns, Peter Lund, Tim Outhit, Reg Rankin, Sue Uteck, Mary Wile

• Votes against continuing the tax reform process (13): Jackie Barkhouse, Jerry Blumenthal, Darren Fisher, Bill Karsten, Gloria McCluskey, Linda Mosher, Lorelei Nicoll, Dawn Sloane, Jim Smith, Steve Streatch, Jennifer Watts, Russell Walker, Peter Kelly

• Absent: Steve Adams