Halifax Fire excludes necessities from main budget list, places it in ‘over budget’ list
Training materials and uniforms were some of the items council felt were too important to be pushed to the ‘over budget’ list
February 6, 2020, 2:05 pm ASTLast Updated: February 6, 2020, 2:05 pm
Some city councillors were unhappy important items firefighters need to do their jobs weren’t placed in their main budget.
Instead, those items were included in their options for “parking lot” items, a term that refers to over-budgeted portions that council can vote to include or exclude from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s (HRFE) final budget.
In a budget meeting on Wednesday, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s fire chief Ken Stuebing presented a proposed budget for 2020/21 of almost $74 million and an “options over budget” list of $890,000.
There were five items on the list. The first three included training materials and services to maintain standards, an increase in the number of uniforms and clothing, and an increase in equipment requirements, maintenance and repair costs, and facility rental.
The fire chief said the first three items showed up last year and are still important this year. Those three items are the most expensive on the list, at $290,000, $270,000 and $230,000.
“Those are real numbers and important numbers for us because if that money (for the three items) gets put into our budget to fix the structural deficit, I’ll have a little more money to be able to address other issues that I think are critical proper safety issues,” said Stuebing.
Some councillors were concerned that firefighter training materials and uniforms were not included in the HRFE’s main budget.
‘Whatever rags they happen to have’
During the meeting, Coun. Sam Austin expressed his frustration with the fact those two items were still not prioritized in this year’s budget.
“We can’t have people just going out in whatever rags they happen to have at their house,” said Austin.
“Clearly we’re going to be buying equipment, clearly we’re going to be doing this training where it’s mandated. We should have a budget that actually reflects the underlying reality.”
The city’s chief financial officer, Jane Fraser, agreed.
She said when making a budget, business units examine their core services and fund those areas first before funding the discretionary areas.
Austin replied saying there is a need for good budgeting principles.
“Something needs to change on this because we can’t keep doing this each year,” Austin said.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn voted against some of the over-budgeted items on HRFE’s list.
Speaking with reporters after the meeting, she said one of the reasons she voted against them was because the important items were buried.
“These items, as important as they are, they should be baked into the budget,” said Blackburn.
“You put them in the parking lot, you take your chances.”
Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé explained the important items were on the list because they were unable to fit them into the budget without going over the maximum amount the department was allocated.
“I would actually recommend the first three for sure,” Dubé said.
Councillors voted to put all of the requested items into the parking lot with the exception of the last item on the list, a $40,000 request for incident command system and incident management training.
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