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HRM's Proposed 2008/2009 Budget Focuses on Infrastructure, Tax Reform, Communities and Public Safety
(Tuesday, April 1, 2008) The Halifax Regional Municipality tabled its 2008/2009 proposed budget today, April 1, at Regional Council. The budget focuses on maintaining existing service levels; increasing investment in HRM assets such as transit, streets and roads; applying new money to new capital assets, and managing expenditure growth.
"The theme for the 2008-2009 fiscal year is "Safer, Stronger, Better ... Planning for now and for the future," says HRM's CAO, Dan English. "The proposed budget clearly reflects the need to strengthen the base - our foundation of assets, financial planning and our people. Focus will be placed on effectively delivering existing services while strategically selecting new services based on Council's Focus Areas and corporate strategies."
The proposed budget will continue to support the four Council Focus Areas:
- Public Safety
- Community Development
- Tax Reform
Council has been very clear that Public Safety is a priority. It includes; Police, Fire, youth programs, by-law enforcement, emergency measures and other initiatives that make our streets, communities and schools safer. HRM, citizens will see provisions for the results of Police Resourcing Study, integration of Fire Services Delivery Standards, expansion of Highfield Park Fire Station, and the implementation of the Youth Advocacy Program.
Community spaces and facilities are essential for developing community character and establishing a sense of place. The proposed budget supports Infrastructure through the development of an Asset Management Project that will enable HRM to link asset resources with service delivery and become more proactive in the management of its assets. The proposed budget also includes a 5 year Capital Plan, as well as a Community Energy Plan. Enhancements to Transit and strategic transportation are part of the budget, as well as, a Community Facility Master Plan and an Arena Capacity Study.
Further investment in Community Development is proposed, including the development of a Community Development Framework and continuation of the Community Visioning project that was initiated in 2007. HRM by Design and youth engagement, as well as, a Joint Public Lands Project are also supported through this budget.
During the past budget year, HRM has worked on Tax Reform, holding public consultation meetings and developing a Tax Reform Committee which designed a Draft Tax Model. In the coming year, HRM will continue its work on Tax Reform and provide additional resources to support the work of the Tax Reform Committee and the community consultation process. This exciting but challenging initiative will provide options on how best to design our tax system. The Committee then expects to review and revise the Draft Tax Model and return to Council with a recommendation of a new tax model.
HRM is committed to investing in our people, our most valuable resource. With the shrinking workforce and the prospect of large number of our staff eligible for retirement in the next 5 years, HRM must look at measures to attract and retain the best staff. The proposed 2008/2009 budget supports effective succession planning, further investment in training and education and recognition and reward for its many volunteers. The proposed budget includes an Employee Engagement Survey, and a web-based recruitment tool.
The proposed HRM 2008/2009 budget provides for a total Operating Budget of $677 million (4.3% increase over 2007/2008), and a gross Capital Budget of $143 million (15% increase over 2007/2008). It is also proposing a 2.6% increase to the tax rate over the 2007/2008 rate in order to maintain the existing service levels and provide for moderate increases in some areas.
"Balancing public expectations and needs with the efficient and effective management of municipal resources, is the direction this proposed budget is taking," says Mr. English. "The proposed budget ensures we are able to maintain our existing services. HRM is building on the strong foundation established in previous years to ensure success well into the future."
Halifax Regional Council is scheduled to debate the proposed Operating, Capital and Reserve Budgets at Committee of the Whole, beginning April 15, 2008.
Information on the proposed 2008/2009 HRM budget can be found on our website at www.halifax.ca by clicking on the 2008/2009 proposed budget icon on the home page.
Chief Administrative Officer