Nova Scotia

CBRM 'crisis management' budget approved

The Cape Breton Regional Council has approved a budget that municipal staff describe as an exercise in "crisis management".

Councillors vote in favour of lean budget that has no money for road paving

The Cape Breton Regional Council has approved a budget that municipal staff describe as an exercise in "crisis management".

The balanced budget is contains $140,101,877 to cover operating costs and $19,260,000 to cover capital expenses.

Deputy mayor Kevin Saccary summed up councillors' feelings when he read the motion for the budget.

"I reluctantly, but being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers, would move that we approve the 2013-2014 operating budget," said Saccary.

The budget passed unanimously.

Saccary said he was frustrated that the municipality had to absorb $7 million in costs for programs downloaded to it by the province. Programs the province had promised to take over, but then backed away from.

New Waterford councillor Lowell Cormier said putting the budget together was a grim task, but said there are some positive elements of the budget that will help taxpayers.

"We are holding the tax rate, in a region with 17% unemployment, we are eliminating the proposed commercial tax increase for our suffering business community, we are helping our volunteer firemen and our search and rescue," said Cormier.

Council approved $13 million for waste water system upgrades, more than $1.5 million for a new fire station, $1.2 million for Centre 200 to help reduce energy cost, and $1.3 million for the Sydney Boardwalk extension.

Little money will be going into road work in this year's budget.

There will be no money for new paving, only for road repairs like patching pot holes.

Councillors hope the provincial government will take notice of CBRM's fiscal restraint and help out.

Mayor Cecil Clarke has come up with a five year capital spending plan that calls for $300 million in a cost share arrangement with the province and the federal government.

"The real call now is to the provincial government to respond to our capital plan. In recognizing what was coming before us we put together a thoughtful, well thought out plan that dealt with the multi-year needs of the community and get us back on track," he said.

"So if we fail to have a response to have something that has been presented in a very constructive manner, than indeed this is a crisis-management exercise which will only continue to get worse."

The province brings down its budget next week.