Pin It

Friday, March 22, 2019

Council says no to spending surplus money on parking lot expenses

It's "risky business" spending reserves on recurring expenses says CAO Jacques Dubé.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 4:27 PM

City council votes against spending surplus money to keep tax bill down. - DANIELLE CAMERON
  • City council votes against spending surplus money to keep tax bill down.
After much debate, Halifax Regional Council voted against using the $20 million surplus reserve to keep residential and commercial tax rates down. The rate will go to a final vote at council at 2.3 percent, meaning a $43.83 increase
on the average home tax bill of $1,979.

Mayor Mike Savage recommended taking $900,000 from last year’s budget surplus to lower the proposed average tax bill rate from 2.3 percent to 2.1 percent but his amendment was defeated.

“It’s not something you would do very often,” Savage says. “It’s not something you would rely on doing. But I think it’s a statement that we recognize that, for a lot of people, taxes are difficult.” The decrease would shave about two dollars off the average tax bill.

The amendment supported by Councillor Tim Outhit, who compared the 2.1 percent increase to council paying a dividend to the residents who helped achieve the surplus by buying and selling homes last year.

“This is a proposal to put less than 10 percent of the money that came from our residents back to our residents.”

Not everyone agreed.

“We are not a business,” Councillor Sam Austin says, referring to Outhit’s dividend comment. “Our concerns are fundamentally different.”

Austin recently likened the issue to buying groceries with savings–eventually savings run out, but groceries are a constant.

By using part or all of the surplus to lessen taxes, Austin says council might struggle to pay for long-term items in the parking lot list of upcoming expenditures including a $600,000 improvement to transit and Fall River’s $363,000 fire service expansion.

“To me folks, we’re setting ourselves up potentially for more misery next year,” says Austin.

CAO Jacques Dubé agreed with Austin, arguing that using reserve funds to pay for a reoccurring expenditure like yearly taxes is risky business.

Dubé says when you start taking money out of reserves to pay for day to day it's like "taking money from your visa card or your American express card to fund ongoing operations, at some point you’re going to be short.”

After back and forth from councillors Richard Zurawski, Bill Karsten and Matt Whitman, Council reached a stalemate. Eight voted for and eight voted against the amendment, meaning it didn’t pass.

Council then voted on the original motion of a 2.3 percent increase based on their hashing out of the parking lot list which passed and will go to a final vote for council approval next month.

Tags: , , ,

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a voluntary donation using the button below. Thank you for your support!


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Remember, it's entirely possible to disagree without spiralling into a thread of negativity and personal attacks. We have the right to remove (and you have the right to report) any comments that go against our policy.

Coast Top Ten

Savage Love

More »


More »


More »

In Print This Week

Vol 27, No 43
March 19, 2020

Cover Gallery »

Real Time Web Analytics

© 2020 Coast Publishing Ltd.