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Budget Meetings Cancelled Due to Equalization Dispute
(Friday, March 23, 2001)-- The dispute between Halifax Regional Council and the Province over changes to the municipal Equalization Formula has resulted in Council suspending deliberations on the proposed 2001/2002 Operating Budget and delaying the setting of a new tax rate.
Regional Council has decided to suspend its discussions on the proposed Budget until more is known about the potential impact of the Province's plan to use property taxes collected from financially- stable municipalities and then transfer those funds to other municipal units.
Budget sessions had been scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings next week, but they have been cancelled in light of the ongoing dispute. Council was hoping to approve a new Budget before the end of the current fiscal year, which is March 31st.
Mayor Peter Kelly said Regional Council has stated publicly many times that it recognizes that some municipalities in Nova Scotia are experiencing financial difficulty and it is sympathetic to their plight. However, Council is unanimously opposed to allowing the Province to use property tax dollars to provide municipal subsidies and municipal equalization.
Mayor Kelly said Councillors believe there is a "fairer way" to resolve this issue, and HRM officials are prepared to meet with the Province to explore alternative means of raising additional revenues to assist the lesser-resourced municipalities in Nova Scotia.
The Mayor and HRM officials met with Municipal Relations Minister Angus MacIsaac earlier this week to discuss the dispute. The Mayor has asked for a meeting with Premier John Hamm before the Province's deadline for discussion on the amended Formula, which has been set for next Tuesday, March 27th.
Mayor Peter Kelly