Daycares in Halifax could have to start paying for fire inspections soon. (CBC)

In the face of a tight budget the Halifax fire department says it wants to start charging an inspection fee to 213 licensed daycares and more than 1,200 liquor establishments in the city.

The department said it could raise up to $600,000 a year charging for a service it currently provides for free.

Fire Chief Doug Trussler presented his proposed $55-million budget to city hall on Wednesday.

"We don’t have any wiggle room," he said.

Salaries for 400 unionized firefighters have risen by 49 per cent in nine years. A six per cent raise in October will cost another $2.4 million and bring the average salary of a first-class firefighter to $82,000.

"Ninety-six per cent of our budget is salaries and benefits when you take out non-discretionary items," said Trussler.

If the department gets its way hundreds of daycares and bars will have to pay for their inspections

"We are one of the few large departments that don’t charge and it’s strictly a cost recovery," said deputy chief Roy Hollett.

Under the proposal daycares would be charged every three years. The department has not decided if it would be a flat fee or an hourly rate of $65 an hour.

Licensed bars would pay an annual fire inspection fee expected to cost several hundred dollars.

"It all adds up. I would hope they have a really good reason to be needing to charge these fees if that’s the case, but it’s going to impact us," said Shane Robilliard, general manager at Your Father's Moustache.

Eventually, Halifax Fire said it intends to charge the owners of apartment buildings for inspections. The cost — which could run into thousands of dollars each — would be included in existing permits.

In an effort to save $80,000 this year, the department is also proposing to close five "underutilized" stations in rural parts of the city.

Halifax council will vote on the budget later this spring.

with files from Paul Withers