Halifax council’s committee of the whole voted Wednesday to approve a five-year capital budget plan for the municipality’s infrastructure, but the question of spending more money to fix roads dominated the discussion.
Some councillors suggested going a bit further into debt in order to repair the streets.
Halifax’s debt sits at $256.3 million. Since 1999, $100 million of the city’s debt has been paid off, said Jane Fraser, the director of operations for the city. She said Halifax is in a strong financial position.
Councillor Steve Craig said debt is a good thing when used responsibly.
“I’d like council to consider in the future, before we approve the final budget, going into a little more debt…for our streets,” he said.
Councillor Tim Outhit said road maintenance is a necessity, but was against raising the debt.
“While I agree with my colleagues… that we should be spending money on fixing roads,” he said. “I am not convinced yet that the way to do it is to raise our debt.”
Outhit said there’s an equal argument for wanting to spend more on paving roads, but not going into debt over them and instead moving money from other projects, which could be better for Halifax in the long run.
“We could knock off our debt in two years if we bit the bullet on capital expenditures for a couple of years,” he said.
Outhit said he was in favour of the budget plan but wanted more discussion on going deeper into debt.
“To say we should start raising our debt, particularly when we’re spending a fair bit of money to service that debt, I just think we should be a little cautious on that,” he said. “But overall, I think this is a great budget [and] I support the projects going forward.”
The committee voted in favour of the motion to bring the preliminary budget before regional council.