Halifax Regional Council considers budget increase for parks and recreation

Halifax Regional Council plans to add about $ 2.9 million to its parks and recreation budget for 2021-2022, most to deal with the impact of COVID-19.

Park officials initially proposed a budget of $ 32.8 million, an increase of $ 1.5 million over the revised figures from last June.

But the president of Discover Halifax has asked advisers to consider $ 600,000 to support events in downtown Dartmouth and downtown Halifax to attract visitors.

“There is an opportunity for a strong and rapid recovery in the tourism industry with the completion of the vaccination program,” said Ross Jefferson. “We want to take advantage of the opening first, to be in pole position.”

Mayor Mike Savage supported the idea. He noted that this was a one-time expense that could be covered by reserve money or increased federal funding.

“There is a return on investment, it helps us to help these industries,” Savage said.

Multi-district recreational facilities, like the Halifax Forum, are projecting a shortfall of $ 1.7 million due to the impact of the pandemic on programming and the ability to rent space. (Robert Guertin / CBC)

The head of the parks and recreation department said the money would be used to set up stages for evening and weekend shows. There is also reportedly $ 150,000 for community-wide COVID-safe events throughout the municipality.

“People want to start bringing back some events, but they are worried about the costs associated with COVID,” said department director Denise Schofield. “So they asked for a one-time supplemental grant program. “

An additional $ 250,000 will go to Discover Halifax’s tourism plan and COVID-19 recovery.

Projected deficit

The municipality’s multi-district recreation facilities are also projecting a shortfall of $ 1.7 million due to the continuing impact of the pandemic on programming and the ability to rent space. They include Cole Harbor Place, the Zatzman Sportsplex, the Halifax Forum, and the Canada Games Center.

Councilor Sam Austin said the municipality should not accept money from Ottawa and the province to handle a restart and not help these facilities.

“Where they’ve all seen membership drops, where they’ve all seen rental revenue losses, it would be very misleading for us to do an about-face and basically impose cuts in programs and services.” Austin said.

Councilors also agreed to consider an additional $ 85,000 for a youth drop-in center in Lower Sackville as well as $ 125,000 to share the costs of a public artwork at the Queen’s Mark along the seafront. sea.

A final decision on any additional budget items councilors are considering is expected on April 20.

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