Halifax Tax was established to support Halifax Regional Municipality’s “Shape your Budget” community engagement program.
The Halifax Tax Budget Allocator site was established to allow the community to simulate adjusting municipal tax dollars supporting various services: transit, municipal streets and sidewalks, parks, garbage collection, fire and emergency protection, policing, recreation and libraries. The site instructions state that “by increasing, decreasing or maintaining the allocations to each service, you can play with different scenarios as you try to balance the service demands against the tax dollars residents and business pay.”
Halifax Tax allowed community members to increase or decrease spending across nineteen budget line items across four broad budgetary areas. For example, under the area of “infrastructure”, the community was asked to consider spending on four individual line items: (1) roadway maintenance; (2) Right of way and traffic management; (3) snow removal and ice control; and (4) solid waste.
The consequences of each spending option were very clearly set out on the site making it easy for community members to make educated choices.
The “Shape your Budget” program of community engagement was also supported by a series of fantastic videos about the nature of the services delivered by each council department. The full suite of videos is hosted on the Halifax Youtube Channel.
The report to Council on the outcomes of the participatory budgeting process noted that:
- Just over 20% of citizens that completed the Budget Allocator, expressed positive thoughts at being invited to participate in the budget process.
- 65% of those that completed the Budget Allocator, wanted to maintain or decrease the total amount budgeted for these services.
- 35% were willing to increase the budget and the tax rate, which was voiced in a few of the comments as well.
The project was supported by a discussion forum on Council’s main community engagement portal, Shape Your City, along with a series of public meetings.