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Media Releases

November 22, 2017

2018 Preliminary Budgets Respond To The Fiscal Challenges Of Today While Building A Stronger City For Tomorrow

Preliminary Budgets Represent One of the Lowest Rates of Budgeted Expenditure Growth in the City’s History, Are Balanced Without Any Draw on Financial Stabilization Reserve

Released: 1:53 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The 2018 preliminary operating and capital budgets tabled at a special Executive Policy Committee meeting are balanced without any draw on the financial stabilization reserve and respond to the fiscal challenges of today by limiting expenditure increases to one of the lowest levels in the history of the city while continuing to build and prepare the city for steady population growth into the future Mayor Brian Bowman announced today.

“Demands on this year’s budget were incredibly high,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “But the reality is we encountered significant revenue challenges during the last year. At the same time, the city continues to be squeezed by increasing infrastructure demands that come with being a growing city while grappling with the need to rebuild and repair many city assets that fell into disrepair following years of neglect.”

“I do believe, however, the preliminary 2018 budgets strike the right balance between responding to the fiscal challenges of today while continuing to invest in key services and infrastructure that will build and prepare Winnipeg for strong and steady population growth projected into the future,” said Mayor Bowman.

Mayor Bowman emphasized that at the start of the 2018 budget process the city was facing an $89 million deficit in the tax-supported operating budget. Mayor Bowman said over the course of the last year, a lot of input from citizens and collaborative work with stakeholder groups, Councillors, and the public service has resulted in the tabling of a preliminary budget that is balanced without any draw on the financial stabilization reserve.

Mayor Bowman said balancing the 2018 budgets was more challenging than previous years because of the Province of Manitoba’s decision to eliminate two key programs including the 50/50 transit funding agreement and the Building Manitoba Fund which provided stable, predictable, and growth oriented funding for Winnipeg.

Barring a decision by the provincial government to restore the 50/50 transit funding agreement, transit fares for all riders will increase by an additional $0.20 above the annual five cent inflationary increase, for a total fare increase of $0.25 effective January 1, 2018. Service level reductions are also proposed on 23 routes across the city beginning in June, 2018.

To help manage the fiscal challenges the city is currently facing, the 2018 preliminary operating budget limits operating expenditure increases to 1.2 percent, one of the lowest rates of budgeted growth in tax-supported spending in the history of Winnipeg. It also includes $3.4 million of efficiency savings in the form of an additional vacancy management target for a total of $21.9 million that will be shared by all tax-supported departments, special operating agencies, but excluding the Fire and Police departments.

No new fees are proposed in the 2018 budget, the frontage levy is not increased, and the water and sewer dividend rate remains unchanged. No increase is proposed to recycling fees in 2018 beyond inflation.

Property tax increases are limited to 2.33 percent, and the entire increase is dedicated to addressing Winnipeg’s infrastructure requirements.

Two percent of the proposed 2.33 percent property tax increase is dedicated to rebuilding and repairing regional and local roads, and 0.33 percent of the proposed increase is dedicated toward the completion of the Southwest Rapid Transitway. This increase means the average homeowner will pay an additional $39 in municipal property taxes in 2018.

Mayor Bowman said the 2018 budget proposes to increase investment in road renewal to a record level of $116 million in 2018.

“This is the highest annual level of investment in road renewal in Winnipeg’s history,” said Mayor Bowman. “I know that fixing our roads continues to be a top priority for many Winnipeggers, and this level of investment reflects how much of a priority this is for residents across our city.”

To continue powering the economy and reduce the burden on small businesses, the preliminary budget proposes to reduce the business tax from 5.25 percent to 5.14 percent and increase the business tax threshold from $32,220 to $33,300 in 2018.

“Since this Council took office, we have reduced the business tax rate from 5.7 percent to 5.14 percent representing a 9.8% decrease since 2014,” said Mayor Bowman.

Mayor Bowman highlighted how collective agreements negotiated and ratified throughout the last year between the city and its major unions contributed significantly in managing the overall level of expenditure growth in 2018, totaling almost $21 million annually in 2018.

“I want to thank all of our valued city employees for their efforts in helping negotiate agreements that are not only fair to employees, but also more affordable to taxpayers and ultimately more sustainable over the long term,” said Mayor Bowman.

The 2018 preliminary budget proposes to invest a total of $292 million in the Police Service which reflects an increase of approximately $3.5 million or 1.2 percent from last year’s budget. This increase is in-line with the rate of inflation and consistent with the level of increase recommended in the Winnipeg Police Board Strategic Plan. The proposed operating budgets also provide $193.5 million to be invested in the Fire Paramedic Service in 2018 including additional resources to purchase new firefighting equipment and maintain existing fire halls.

The preliminary budgets propose a record capital investment of $4.6 million to address the backlog of elm tree removals in 2018 which is the most important step in limiting the spread of DED. In 2018, the total capital investment in the Urban Forest Enhancement Program, including DED removal and the Reforestation Improvement program will increase from $2.1 million to $7.1 million. With a further investment of $11.6 million in the operating budget for tree planting, pruning and additional DED control measures, we will invest a total of $18.7 million in maintaining and enhancing Winnipeg’s tree canopy in 2018.

Mayor Bowman said investing in active transportation not only supports active healthy lifestyles, it is also essential to supporting a modern and growing city. The 2018 preliminary budgets propose a total investment of $17.3 million in new active transportation infrastructure, a record level of investment representing an increase of $4.1 million or 31% from $13.2 million in 2017.

The 2018 preliminary budgets also propose new and ongoing investments to build complete neighbourhoods, strengthen community amenities, as well as review the governance structure at City Hall including:

  • $175,000 to support a review of the city’s current governance framework;
  • $150,000 to continue the Community Homeless Assistance Program (CHAT);
  • Fourth year of a 5 year annual commitment of $150,000 towards the United Way’s Plan to End Homelessness;
  • $10.8 million of operating support for the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and a further capital grant of $5.1 million to support their on-going infrastructure renewal efforts;
  • Third year  of a five year annual commitment of $1 million to the Winnipeg Art Gallery Inuit Art Centre;
  • $1.25 million to support the Indigenous Youth Strategy, consistent with 2017; and
  • A continued investment of over $43 million in grant support to many different organizations, museums, and community centres.

“Moving into the final year of this Council’s mandate, I believe City Hall is on a better track today than it was three years ago,” said Mayor Bowman. “We have made significant progress toward making City Hall more open and transparent, more accessible and responsive, and we have strengthened our sense of pride in our city. Despite our current fiscal challenges, I believe the 2018 preliminary budgets continue this momentum and continue to respond to the needs of a growing, thriving city.”

Preliminary Budget Proposes A Balanced Approach To Address Transit Deficit In 2018

Released: 1:53 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The 2018 preliminary operating budget tabled today at a special meeting of Executive Policy Committee is proposing a balanced approach to mitigating a $10 million deficit incurred by the city following a unilateral decision earlier this year by the province of Manitoba to eliminate a long-standing transit funding partnership between the city and province.

“Elimination of this city-provincial partnership created a $10 million deficit in transit’s operating budget in 2018,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “This left us with a significant gap to fill, and something had to give in order for us to balance the budget.”

Closing the $10 million provincial funding gap solely from within transit’s budget would have required the city to eliminate service on 59 different transit routes, terminate up to 120 transit operators, and increase transit fares by up to $0.30.

“This extreme approach would have created significant pressure and stress for passengers as well as transit operators,” said Mayor Bowman. “Transit remains a core city service, and it simply would not have been fair to place this entire burden on passengers and the system. At the same time, it wasn’t fair to require property taxpayers to cover this deficit considering they already subsidize transit operations significantly.”

“I believe what’s being proposed is a balanced approach,” said Mayor Bowman.

The 2018 preliminary budget is proposing an additional transit fare increase of $0.25 rather than $0.30 effective January 1, 2018. Service level reductions are being proposed on 23 routes rather than 59 routes across the city beginning in June, 2018.

No reductions are being proposed to the number of transit operators. To make up the difference, the budget proposes to draw on transit reserves and rely on debt financing for the purchase of new buses rather than cash.

Even with the proposed fare increases, Mayor Bowman stressed that Winnipeg currently has among the lowest transit fares compared to other major Canadian cities, and transit fares for Winnipeg seniors will continue to be the lowest of all major Canadian cities even with the proposed 25 cent fare increase.

“While we have been able to find a way to balance the impact to transit passengers as well as ratepayers, service levels will be negatively impacted but Winnipeg transit users will still be paying amongst the lowest transit fares when compared to other Canadian cities,” said Mayor Bowman.

Preliminary 2018 Budget Proposes To Build Winnipeg Pride, Improve Downtown Safety

Released: 1:54 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The 2018 preliminary operating budget tabled today at a special meeting of Executive Policy Committee is proposing to further build Winnipeg's reputation and pride by bolstering the Special Events Marketing Fund as well as developing a multi-year downtown safety strategy through a more strategic distribution of the accommodation tax Mayor Brian Bowman announced today.

Mayor Bowman said Winnipeg has hosted many different national and international events over the last few years including the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Grey Cup Festival, the Heritage Classic, a Pro Challenge Tennis Tournament, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Annual Conference and Trade Show, and just this summer welcomed over 4,000 athletes and coaches and more than 20,000 visitors to one of the most successful Canada Summer Games events in years.

“Winnipeg is becoming more and more a destination rather than a departure point,” said Mayor Bowman. “We need to keep this momentum going, and by enhancing our efforts to attract regional, national, and international events we can continue building Winnipeg’s reputation and pride.”

The accommodation tax represents a five percent levy on hotel room accommodations within the City of Winnipeg. The by-law establishing the accommodation tax came into effect on June 1, 2008. Last year, the tax generated $9.1 million in revenue all of which is deposited into the Destination Marketing Reserve.

The Destination Marketing Reserve is then used to fund Economic Development Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s operations and capital expansion, and the Special Events Marketing Fund which is used to attract regional, national, and international events to Winnipeg.

Currently, only about 11 percent of accommodation tax revenue, or $1 million, is distributed through the Special Events Marketing Fund. The 2018 preliminary budget proposes to bolster this allocation by more than doubling it to 25 percent. It also recommends that the Manitoba Hotel Association together with Economic Development Winnipeg develop an enhanced tourism and events strategy and criteria for the expanded component of the funding.

Mayor Bowman emphasized that tourism is a significant contributor to Winnipeg’s economy. When people visit the city, they spend money at hotels, restaurants, concerts, hockey games, and transportation. When the city is able to attract large scale events like the Canada Summer Games or the Heritage Classic, these events can pay significant dividends to local businesses across the city.

In addition to bolstering the Special Events Marketing Fund, the 2018 preliminary budget recommends the development of a multi-year downtown public safety strategy using funds available in the Destination Marketing Reserve.

It recommends that the Public Service prepare a report within 120 days outlining a strategy that includes enhanced outreach services, expanded foot patrols, and other security initiatives, and that it be developed in consultation with the Manitoba Hotel Association, the Downtown BIZ, the Winnipeg Police Service, and the United Nations Safe Cities Committee of Council.

“Despite the significant progress our city has made in reducing the crime rate, public safety remains a concern for many residents, and some still consider our downtown more unsafe than other parts of the city,” said Mayor Bowman. “We need to continue working to address the safety concerns many of our residents have.”

In addition to developing a downtown safety strategy, the Mayor noted the 2018 preliminary budgets also propose an increase to the Winnipeg Police Service of approximately $3.5 million or 1.2 percent from last year’s budget to support public safety across the city.

2018 Preliminary Budgets Invest In Transit Safety And Infrastructure

Long-Term Strategic Plan Recommended for Transit

Released: 1:54 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The 2018 preliminary budgets propose a continued investment in renewing Winnipeg's transit fleet, implement recommendations to improve transit safety, and recommend that Transit department undertake a long-term strategic plan in response to declining ridership and the new fiscal reality the city faces following an end earlier this year to the long-standing city-provincial funding partnership.

“A growing city like Winnipeg needs an efficient, well-functioning, and safe transit service,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “This requires us to continue investing in key infrastructure while ensuring transit passengers and operators are able to safely access transit services.”

The 2018 preliminary budgets propose an investment of $28.4 million to purchase 40 new transit buses to continue to modernize and renew the bus fleet.

The 2018 budgets also proposes a new investment of $1.2 million including a capital investment of $460,000 for additional bus fleet cameras and shelters for bus inspectors and $717,000 of incremental operating funding to support additional transit security and point duty inspectors. This investment will implement the transit safety recommendations that were approved by Council in 2017 following the tragic death of bus operator Irvine Jubal Fraser.

A recommendation in the preliminary budgets also requires Winnipeg Transit to undertake a long term strategic plan in 2018 to address operating, financial, and service objectives to help ensure that transit can be better positioned for success in the future.

“We can’t ignore the fact our public transit service is facing a new fiscal reality,” said Mayor Bowman. “Declining ridership, provincial funding reductions, and a new operating environment about to emerge with the introduction of ride-sharing require transit to take a critical and strategic review of its operations to ensure it can be best positioned for success in the future.”

November 22, 2017