Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) did an innovative and democratic thing this year to have an interactive online Budget Allocator to let people try their hands at creating a municipality budget for the area, and submit it for City Council’s consideration. How much consideration each, or all the submissions might get, is another story, but I won’t be cynical here. I want to share my example of a cohesive budget that’s more than just the numbers, with rationale behind the choices, although the numbers are critical to make things work, of course. We’ll see when HRM presents its final budget, if it will do something similar to explain its choices in a way understandable to the general public.
Free public transit is an ideal dreamed of by many cities for its potential impact on everything from everyday life, to the economy, environment, traffic, social equity, innovative and inspirational population mindset, among other benefits. However, it is an ideal not financially feasible in most cities. By chance and circumstance from analysis to be shown, the current budgets of HRM and Halifax Transit can be feasibly adjusted for HRM to offer free public transit, some or all of the time, in many ways to cater to a range of political wills and progressive thinking to pay for it. It is mostly a matter of priorities, with some shifting and/or addition of tax dollars, pending which of many scenarios chosen. HRM’s citizens and City Council only have to commit to becoming a global example in providing free public transit, demonstrating to other municipalities in similar financial scenarios what can be done to revolutionize their public transit systems! Free public transit in HRM, and the progressive mindset of its citizens to help make it happen, would immediately become trademarks of the city’s identity, associating it with qualities like progressiveness, innovation, equitability, and make it the talk of North America and beyond!
HRM can provide all of its current public transit for free on weekends and holidays via any one of the following options:
For about $1 of tax per person per year, or a $2 (toonie) charge per use, the Halifax Skating Oval can be sustained, at the highest cost estimates. It could be as low as 50 cents per use. I’m not encouraging this, but if paying for use of the Oval were a last resort, it could be very affordable and definitely worth its value!
There’s a big debate on whether or not to keep the Canada Winter Games Skating Oval on the Halifax Commons (CBC, Jan 4 2011). A lot of the public is enjoying the facility, but the worry is the cost of maintaining the Oval after the Canada Games are over. The hope is that business support can be found to pay the costs, rather than increasing taxes or having to charge skaters. However, that’s a political solution. This analysis looks at the business case of keeping the oval if the public had to pay for it.