CBRM coun­cil ap­proves op­er­at­ing bud­get

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING

Coun­cil­lors for the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity have ap­proved an op­er­at­ing bud­get of al­most $149 mil­lion and $31 mil­lion cap­i­tal bud­get that will see the mu­nic­i­pal debt re­main at the cur­rent level, with ad­di­tional fund­ing for roads and sup­port for a new po­lice sta­tion in east divi­sion.

Dis­cus­sion of the bud­gets pre­sented by chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Marie Walsh be­gan early in the af­ter­noon Thurs­day and stretched well into the evening. Much of the de­bate around the coun­cil ta­ble fo­cused on some of the rel­a­tively small line items, in­clud­ing a lengthy dis­cus­sion of the $120,000 al­lo­ca­tion for the “com­mu­ni­ties in bloom” pro­gram that sees bas­kets of flow­ers hung in down­town ar­eas through­out the CBRM.

There is an over­all in­crease of 1.97 per cent in the op­er­at­ing bud­get for 2017-18, with rev­enues ex­pected to in­crease by the same amount.

Un­der rev­enue, there will also be an in­crease in capped assess­ment of $1.4 per cent, an in­crease in the fed­eral grantin-lieu of $266,000, with a $116,000 de­crease in by­law and plan­ning de­vel­op­ment rev­enue of $116,000.

Mayor Ce­cil Clarke char­ac­ter­ized it as a “mov­ing for­ward” bud­get.

“What has im­proved is our sta­bil­ity, hav­ing that sta­bil­ity changed the type of de­bate from things where pub­lic works would have con­sumed a lot, a lot of time, be­cause we’ve made im­prove­ments on our in­fra­struc­ture … we’re into very much op­er­a­tional things that peo­ple have vary­ing opin­ions about and pas­sions but ul­ti­mately I think bud­gets are about try­ing to fund bal­ance,” he said.

Clarke called the $8.2 mil­lion al­lo­ca­tion for roads the largest that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has seen.

Sev­eral mem­bers of coun­cil ex­pressed their con­tin­ued frus­tra­tion with the freez­ing of its equal­iza­tion fund­ing from the prov­ince, not­ing it re­ceives $15 mil­lion but sends back $17 mil­lion to Hal­i­fax in ar­eas such as manda­tory con­tri­bu­tions to ser­vices over which they have no con­trol, such as ed­u­ca­tion.

Dist. 11 Coun. Ken­dra Coombes ini­tially in­tro­duced a mo­tion to re­move the com­mu­ni­ties in bloom pro­gram from the bud­get, ques­tion­ing the wis­dom of spend­ing that amount of money on flow­ers when roads are in the CBRM are in dire need of re­pair. But after coun­cil­lors spoke both in favour and against the ex­pen­di­ture she ul­ti­mately with­drew the mo­tion, some­thing she re­gret­ted after the meet­ing, say­ing she wished it had pro­ceeded to a vote.

One of those smaller items that many res­i­dents of the CBRM likely won’t like to see omit­ted from the bud­get is a spring heavy garbage pickup. The bud­get makes ref­er­ence to it re­turn­ing in spring 2018, and it was noted that ad­di­tional pick­ups of con­tam­i­nated items were done in the wake of the Thanks­giv­ing Day flood.

Dist. 6 Coun. Ray Paruch noted that with heavy garbage pickup, the CBRM gives its heav­ily bur­dened tax­pay­ers a ser­vice that they want.

Clarke said down the road, if there is an op­er­at­ing sur­plus, they may be able to ad­dress some of the is­sues that coun­cil­lors have iden­ti­fied, such as heavy garbage or derelict prop­er­ties.

Coombes had also in­tro­duced a mo­tion to re­move from the bud­get the $625,000 al­lo­ca­tion for plans, land pur­chase and start for a new po­lice east divi­sion build­ing in down­town Glace Bay, which did not pass.

“I felt that there didn’t seem to be a real plan for the po­lice depart­ment, they just wanted to move it down­town but there was no plan of where down­town,” she said. Coombes also ques­tioned Chief Peter McIsaac’s as­ser­tion that hav­ing a new po­lice build­ing in down­town Glace Bay would have an im­pact on crime rates.

“For me, boots on the street ac­tu­ally walk­ing the beat prob­a­bly will do more to de­crease crime than a build­ing would,” she said.



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