Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency wants an extra $840,000 from council

Halifax regional council will review the matter in March

Halifax fire Chief Kenneth Stuebing spoke to regional council on Wednesday.   Cam Honey

Halifax regional council will consider giving an extra $840,000 to Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency for training, uniforms and equipment repairs.

Council voted Wednesday to decide in March how much, if any, of the $840,000 will be in the 2018-19 budget.

The money was broken into three sections: $294,000 would be for training materials and courses, $268,000 for uniforms and clothing, and $278,000 for logistics like equipment repair.

During council, Halifax CAO Jacques Dubé said these costs have been historically underfunded and have been absorbed by finding savings elsewhere.

Fire Chief Kenneth Stuebing said he understood why council moved the matter to the parking lot, a phrase used to describe budget items that have been temporarily approved but will be reassessed later by council.

“We’ll do our job and go back and write reports, so that council understands those three issues in totality and can compare them to the other items in the parking lot,” said Stuebing after the meeting.

Council also passed HRFE’s 2018-19 base budget proposal on Wednesday.

“We’re excited that council has seen the value in our presentation and our proposal for base budget,” said Stuebing.

The proposal includes an increase of $12.728 million over the $58.72 million that was approved in principle, bringing the total approved to $71.502 million.

Most of the increase is related to pay. The largest amount is $6.451 million which is needed to meet the pay standards set by the collective agreement of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Another $4.886 million would be used for overtime pay needed to ensure all trucks are fully staffed. Of that, $464,000 could be used to hire three new training officers, and a diversity and recruitment officer, which would reduce overtime hours.

The rest is made up of $891,000 to eliminate operations vacancies and $553,000 for 12 new fire fighter positions, as mandated by council.

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll pointed out during council that, while HRFE’s budget proposal is up 10 per cent from last year, it still fits within the goal of not surpassing a 1.9 per cent tax increase for the average homeowner.