Budget Challenges Ahead: Winnipeg Prepares for a Demanding Multi-Year Financial Plan

Released: December 6, 2023 at 11:29 a.m.

As Winnipeg prepares its 2024-27 Multi-Year Balanced Budget, the City faces substantial financial pressures that require a focus on cost control and ensuring value for money, according to Mayor Scott Gillingham and Councillor Jeff Browaty, Chair of the Finance Committee.

The City’s Budget Working Group is planning for tough decisions, influenced by several key factors:

  1. Inflation

Inflation continues to put pressure on the City's finances. "Inflation has led to increased costs across the board, from infrastructure projects to basic services," said Browaty.

Examples of recent increases include:

  • Police vehicles have more than doubled in cost
  • Snow clearing contracts are up 24%
  • Rental costs for vehicles have doubled 
  • Chemicals for water treatment are up by 8%, adding another $4 million in costs

Particularly striking are the price increases for infrastructure projects. The new biosolids facility at the North End Water Pollution Control Centre, for example, has seen cost estimates escalate from $552.7 million to over $1 billion, highlighting the need for rigorous financial oversight.

  1. Labour Costs

Recent labour negotiations – including new contracts with CUPE, MGEU, WPA, and WPSOA – have resulted in necessary but challenging commitments. "While we value our workforce and their critical role in our city, the increase in labour costs adds an additional demand on our budget," noted Browaty.

  1. Pandemic Aftermath

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a lasting financial impact on the city. "We had to absorb over $240 million in unexpected costs and lost revenue during the pandemic, severely depleting our reserves," explained Gillingham. "This has stretched our ability to invest in new projects without substantial financial implications."

  1. Tax Comparisons and Commitment to Reasonable Taxation

In comparison to property tax increases in other Canadian cities, Winnipeg's approach stands out. While Halifax (9.7%), Guelph (8.52%), Victoria (8.37%), Calgary (7.8%), Vancouver (7.6%), Edmonton (6.6%), and Saskatoon (6.04%), have all proposed substantial increases, Mayor Gillingham has committed to a modest 3.5% increase for Winnipeg.

"This comparison underscores our focus on delivering value for money, especially when many Winnipeggers are facing financial strain  in their own households," he said.

"We understand the difficulties ahead and the impact of these decisions on our citizens," Gillingham added. "We remain committed to maintaining essential services and making strategic new investments, but we must also be realistic about our fiscal limitations."

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