Nova Scotia

Halifax councillor suggests proposed tax increases be entirely paid for by residents

Council has started discussions on its proposed billion-dollar budget for 2021-22. Coun. Shawn Cleary suggested a proposed tax increase be entirely borne by residential taxpayers, while commercial taxpayers would see no increase.

Coun. Shawn Cleary says measure would help small businesses struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic

Shawn Cleary is the municipal councillor for District 9, Halifax West Armdale. He proposed that commercial taxpayers not see an increase in taxes. (CBC)

Halifax regional council began discussions Wednesday on its proposed billion-dollar budget for 2021-22.

Finance officials are recommending spending $827.2 million on operations and up to $230 million on capital projects.

The budget calls for a 1.9 per cent increase to the average tax bills of both residential and commercial taxpayers. For the average single family home — worth $250,000 — that would add an extra $38 to the tax bill. For the average commercial property, it would mean an extra $817.

Coun. Shawn Cleary said he wants to help small business owners struggling with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He suggested not increasing taxes on the commercial side, and instead shifting it to residents.

"We're not allowed to give money to private businesses under our charter, but this might be one way to take less from them," said Cleary.

Impact on average residential tax bill

Finance officials said that would mean the increase for the average tax bill would go from $38 to $66.

Mayor Mike Savage supports the idea of reducing the tax burden on small businesses.

"It does make some sense and is worthy of some consideration," he said.

Others are not as keen.

"I don't think it's necessarily going to do what we want it to do," said Coun. Waye Mason.

"We'll be giving a break to the Walmarts, the Canadian Tires and other big players that can afford it as well," said Coun. Sam Austin.

Sam Austin is the councillor for District 5, Dartmouth Centre. (David Laughlin/CBC)

He pointed out many small business owners are also homeowners.

Coun. Iona Stoddard said some people who pay residential property taxes have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.

"So having to pay more than 1.9 per cent would cause them some grief," she said. "I know there'll be some resistance to that."

Chief financial officer Jane Fraser told council that although the impact of COVID-19 could last for 18 months, the city was in better shape than expected. She said 95 per cent of the municipality's property taxes have been paid.

The next budget debate will take place Jan. 20.

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