People who use parks, playgrounds and sports fields in the Halifax Regional Municipality shouldn't expect major improvements in the near future, after council tentatively approved a smaller Parks and Recreation budget for the next fiscal year.
The tentative budget for 2016-17 is $649,600 smaller than this year's and that means most of the region's 878 parks will remain at their minimum standard level, according to the director of the Parks and Recreation department.
"In many parks we're at the safety level," Brad Anguish said in a briefing to Halifax regional council on Wednesday.
"We're making sure it's just safe, green and clean. That's where we want to be functioning in terms of minimum standards. So to get to that next level, it's tough choices."
Those tough choices will likely come later this year, when Anguish presents an analysis of what the city has in parkland and what it can reasonably afford.
"We can maintain what we've got in a safe state," Anguish said.
"The issue seems to be — as well as we're doing — there's concern about the state of good repair or the quality of the park.
"If we really need to move it to the next level, then it really becomes a decision of, do we put more money in or do we just take away a few of the assets that may not be so well utilized?"
Some on council are worried about the system being able to absorb this year's budget cut.
Coun. Linda Mosher, who represents Halifax West Armdale, questioned the cut during the pre-budget debate.
"This is something that benefits residents in all of our communities and I'm just wondering if that's sustainable," Mosher said.
Coun. Waye Mason, who represents Halifax South Downtown, was also skeptical.
"I feel like we're giving you mission impossible," he told Anguish.
Less for libraries, too
The municipality's nearly 900 parks include 324 sport or ball fields and 395 playgrounds.
There's enough money in the draft budget to replace 30 playgrounds, which are no longer deemed safe.
There are also plans to expand the Dartmouth Sportsplex this year, as well as build a new all-weather field in Cole Harbour and a four-pad arena in Dartmouth.
The Halifax Public Libraries system is also being asked to live with less — council approved a $130,000 budget cut in the 2016-17 budget.
Asa Kachan, the CEO of Halifax Public Libraries, told council that will be possible thanks to an increase in revenue from renting space at the new Halifax Central Library, as well as a reorganization of jobs and not filling some vacant positions.