Taxes, Budget, Rapid Transit, ferries, Electric buses, Coronavirus Update 27 and more oh my.

Hello all!  We finally finished the recast COVID budget today!  Long time subscribers know I have said year after year “budget is finally over and now I can catch up, get back you, sorry for the delay.”  Well in 2020 we had to do the budget twice!

I will be caught up on the small backlog of issues Monday or Tuesday, thank you for your patience.

Taxes Due June 1

First thing I have to say, and I know this is no fun at the best of times, but taxes are due June 1.

Payment of the interim tax bill due date was moved from April 30, 2020, to June 1, 2020, back around when COVID-19 started.

If you cannot pay your interim tax bill in full, contact HRM staff and negotiate a payment plan. Regional Council did vote tor a reduction of the interest rate charged on arrears from 15% per annum to 10% per annum to help those that require this assistance.

Both residential and commercial tax bills are due June 1.  

You can pay your taxes through your bank online, you just need to set it up with your AAN (assessment number). If you pay with a credit card online then you will have a service charge of around 2.3% that goes to the company not HRM.

EDIT: Although the Customer Service Centres are closed to the public, they all have drop boxes that staff are checking regularly. Cheques may be dropped off to one of the drop boxes or sent via courier or FedEx to the address below (please note, Canada Post does not deliver to this address):

Halifax Regional Municipality
40 Alderney Drive, 5th Floor
Dartmouth, NS B2Y 2N5
Attn: Treasury

At this point municipalities in Nova Scotia have not been able to get an agreement on the legal changes required to provide targeted tax relief for impacted commercial businesses.  We know hospitality, tourism, and restaurant businesses are particularly badly hit at this time, and at this point, those businesses need to appeal to the Minister of Business for support.

More on taxes here https://www.halifax.ca/home-property/property-taxes/taxes-halifax

Budget Update

Regional Council spent most of the last 10 days working through the recast post-COVID-19 budget.  While we were debating the Province announced businesses reopening June 5, and daycare sometime later, June 15th or so.  So some of the things we had proposed to cut were going to be cut because they could not be done, and now some of them can be done. The budget is going to be a moving target all year.

Staff originally proposed a cut if $85 million dollars, and it looks like Council is going to approve something around $69-70 million in reductions.  This is about a 9-10% reduction in the operating budget.

The difference between the two plans will be funded from last year’s surplus and reserves. This means that we have been able to restore funding for library and recreation staffing, and Councillor Lindell Smith got $500,000 set aside for *some kind* of summer camp programs.

So that is great, but folks need to be aware that we will not be running normal programs in any of these spaces this year, due to public health concerns.  Details are scarce right now but I will share them when I have them.

More on the budget here https://www.saltwire.com/news/local/hrm-police-fire-services-take-advantage-of-budget-reprieve-454489/ and here https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/should-it-stay-or-should-it-go/Content?oid=24136507

Rapid Transit, Electric Buses!

Regional Council has approved two significant Halifax Transit projects that will provide valuable, long-term benefits to the municipality by helping to achieve the objectives outlined in the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP) & broader climate change goals:

  • Rapid Transit Strategy: includes four Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines which will run at a high-frequency and service fewer stops than regular routes, and three fast ferry routes between downtown Halifax and new terminals at Mill Cove, Larry Uteck and Shannon Park
  • Electric Bus Proposal: recommends converting the Transit bus fleet to a low-carbon or zero-emission fleet. The goal is to electrify 50 per cent of the fleet by 2028.

On top of this report, we also approved a significant medium-term plan to redo the Bedford Highway from Windsor Street Exchange to Bedford Highway. Part of this is a multi-use trail on the harbor side, which is amazing.

You can read more all this article: https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/squint-your-eyes-purse-your-lips-pop-your-shoulder-and-say-bus-rapid-transit/Content?oid=24130500

Roadwork 

Folks liked the roadwork updates and wanted more info.  I get emailed these every couple of days automatically when the Roadworks map is updated.
PRESTON ST from QUINPOOL RD to PEPPERELL ST, starting on 2020-06-02
ARGYLE ST from PRINCE ST to CARMICHAEL ST, starting on 2020-05-31
SACKVILLE ST from BARRINGTON ST to GRANVILLE ST, starting on 2020-05-31
BARRINGTON ST from SACKVILLE ST to PRINCE ST, starting on 2020-05-31
BRENTON ST from SPRING GARDEN RD to CLYDE ST, starting on 2020-05-29
SACKVILLE ST from BARRINGTON ST to GRANVILLE ST, starting on 2020-05-31
BARRINGTON ST from SACKVILLE ST to PRINCE ST, starting on 2020-05-31
ARGYLE ST from PRINCE ST to CARMICHAEL ST, starting on 2020-05-31

You can find out road closure details on the HRM Roadworks map: https://www.halifax.ca/transportation/streets-sidewalks/RoadWorks

Coronavirus Update #27 – slow streets, sidewalk cafes, burn ban, who to call for public health concerns

Starting today (Friday, May 28) Halifax will be implementing Slow Streets in Halifax and Dartmouth as part of the Mobility Response plan. These changes will be completed over the coming days and will remain in place until further notice.

Slow Streets are open to local traffic only to reduce vehicle volumes and to create a space for people to walk, roll and cycle while adhering to physical distancing guidelines. Only those motorists who live, are visiting, or are accessing a business on these streets are considered local traffic.

I am really proud of that my colleagues in HRM planning and transportation were able to do this work so quickly.  I’ve been saying since April that these kind of changes would come in time for reopening, and this is more than I thought would be able to be done in this short time!

Engagement on this plan has to be minimal or else HRM wouldn’t be able to get anything implemented in time for reopening, but if it isn’t working for a neighborhood, then it can always be removed and/or adjusted.

Do you have an idea for additional actions to help residents move safely through the region? Drop a pin on the map https://shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/mobilityresponse & tell us why you think adaptations are needed. Your valuable feedback will help staff determine the next steps for making temp changes to streets.

Halifax:

  • Leaman, Drummond, & Isleville sts (between Leeds and Almon)
  • Connolly St (between Windsor St and Chebucto Rd)
  • Elm St (between Chebucto and Quinpool rds)
  • Beech St (between Quinpool and Jubilee rds)
  • Peter Lowe Ave (between William Hunt and George Dauphinee aves)
  • Liverpool St (between Connaught Ave and Windsor St)
  • Oak and Allan sts (between Connaught Ave and Windsor St)
  • Welsford St (between Windsor and Robie st)
  • Vernon St (between Pepperell and Watt st)
  • LeMarchant St (between Watt Street and University Ave)
  • Norwood St (between Connaught Ave and Preston St)
  • Shirley St (between Preston and Robie sts)

Dartmouth:

  • Chappell St (between Pinehill Dr and Wyse Rd)
  • Slayter St (between Albro Lake Rd and School St)
  • Dahlia St (between Victoria Rd and Crichton Ave)

Learn more: https://www.halifax.ca/home/news/response-covid-19-halifax-mobility-response-streets-spaces-0

Articles here https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/coronavirus-covid-19-local-news/local-traffic-only-on-designated-slow-streets-so-haligonians-can-walk-roll-and-cycle-2392125 and here https://globalnews.ca/news/6998312/halifax-slow-streets-mobility-response/

Transit Capacity Increasing
Beginning Saturday, Halifax Transit will increase capacity on conventional buses by once again allowing passengers to stand. A maximum of five passengers will be permitted to stand on conventional buses, at any given time. Learn more: https://www.halifax.ca/home/news/response-covid-19-halifax-transit-update-5

Sidewalk Cafe Fees Waived    
HRM waiving sidewalk patio fees for businesses.  I was pleased to put forward the motion, it’s one small way the municipality can help those hurting in the hospitality-based sector. https://www.halifaxtoday.ca/local-news/hrm-waiving-sidewalk-patio-fees-for-businesses-2379828

How to report public health issues:
An important reminder to residents: DO NOT call 9-1-1 for non-emergency purposes, for example, folks not physical distancing or other public health rules. Residents can call 3-1-1 and police non-emergency 902-490-5020.

Burn Ban
The province-wide burn ban on open fires has been extended to June 1, including domestic burning and beach fires. Outdoor wood-burning appliances (e.g. chimineas) and campfires are temporarily permitted for households, from 7 p.m. to midnight, with limitations. Note: Campfires are only permitted in no-permit required zones (must NOT have both water and sewer services). For more details on all limitations, visit Burning Rules and Regulations. Illegal burning IS AN EMERGENCY and can be reported by calling 911.

Hfxalert
Residents are reminded to sign up for hfxALERT, the new mass notification system for the municipality, keeping residents informed about emergencies and operations updates. hfxALERT will send urgent and non-urgent notifications and is now being used to send COVID-19 related updates. Sign up today. https://www.halifax.ca/fire-police/fire/emergency-management/hfxalert