ns-si-bookmobile_woman-220

The bookmobile got $128,000 from HRM to stay on the road another year. (CBC)

Halifax Regional Municipality saved the bookmobile as it approved its almost $900 million operating and project budget for the next year Thursday.

Councillors debated the budget for two days and made just two changes. One was to fund the Halifax Public Libraries' bookmobile service, which was going to be cancelled after the city cut its funding. HRM will spend $128,000 to keep it on the road for another year.

It also changed plans and decided to spend $400,000 on a new bike trail project from Portland Hills to the Woodside ferry.

Some councillors said the budget process was rushed and others were looking for a cut to the tax rate.

"To tell you the truth I'm pretty furious with the way this has been handled," Debbie Hum said. The councillor for Rockingham-Wentworth said the vote should have been held later to allow further scrutiny.

Taxes too high: Outhit

Tim Outhit, councillor for Bedford, had pushed for a cut to the tax rate. The tax rate will not change, but property assessments are up five per cent, meaning tax bills will rise.

"There's an old saying: if it doesn't smell right, look right, feel right, it probably isn't right," he said. "We cannot continue to raise and raise and raise taxes till we get our operating budget in order. We've done wonderful things on capital expenditure and I'll defend four-pads and libraries and transit terminals to the nth degree, but we do not have our operations in line yet."

Barry Dalrymple, who represents Beaver Bank-Fall River-Waverley, said it was a great budget. "It's the first time in my district I feel part of the HRM," he said.

Linda Mosher agreed and praised the city's finance staff for doing a great job. She said she has high hopes for future budgets under Richard Butts, the city's new chief administrative officer.

"We already eliminated millions of dollars and I'm hoping the new CAO is going to come forward with a tax reduction," she said.

Council passed the budget by a vote of 15 for and five against. It was opposed by Hum, Outhit, Jerry Blumenthal and Mary Wile.