From the Mayor's Desk: 2016 Preliminary Budget Builds Winnipeg for the Future

The City of Winnipeg’s preliminary operating and capital budget was tabled on March 2, 2016.

It is currently under review by various standing committees as well as Executive Policy Committee.  City Council will consider and vote on the budget at a special meeting on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

The preliminary budget tabled on March 2 is balanced, makes record investments in infrastructure, and maintains and invests in key services Winnipeggers have said they need.  This includes increased investments to both the Winnipeg Police Service and Fire Paramedic Service.

I believe the preliminary 2016 budget reflects a disciplined and responsible approach considering we are managing a $7 billion infrastructure deficit, and have inherited a structural deficit following 14 years of property tax cuts and freezes.

This year’s proposed budget builds our city for the future, reflecting the fact we are a growing, thriving city.  It also maintains and invests in key services Winnipeggers have told us through the budget consultation process that they need.

Winnipeggers remind me regularly they want their streets fixed. The proposed budget reflects this priority.

It proposes a modest property tax increase that is entirely dedicated to infrastructure including building and repairing local and regional streets and sidewalks, and investing in the future Southwest Rapid Transitway.

The property tax increase proposed this year is entirely dedicated to infrastructure while ensuring Winnipeg homeowners continue to have the lowest residential municipal property taxes when compared to other large cities across Canada.

Total capital investment into local and regional streets increases to a record level of $105.2 million this year, almost $2 million more than last year and $21 million more than 2014 representing a 25 per cent increase over the last two years.

As well, the construction of the Southwest Rapid Transitway is a key, strategic infrastructure investment required to support a more modern public transit network that is essential for a modern, growing city.

While the 2016 preliminary budget reflects significant investments in infrastructure, this priority does not come at the expense of key services you have told us we need.

The 2016 preliminary budget proposes to increase funding for both the Winnipeg Police Service by 6.32% and the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service budget by 6.63%.

Combined, these two departments comprise 44.6% of the total tax supported budget in 2016 and do need to be carefully managed.

I have and I will continue to support increased investment in the Winnipeg Police Service, and support the Winnipeg Police Board’s strategic plan to transition toward funding increases in 2017 to 2019 that are tied to or less than the rate of inflation.

The proposed 6.32% increase for the Winnipeg Police Service this year is three times the rate of inflation, and represents a $16.7 million increase on a proposed police budget of about $280 million. This proposed increase exceeds the City’s $9.7 million obligation under collective bargaining agreements.

It also builds on successive year-over-year increases to the Winnipeg Police Service.  Over the last ten years, the Winnipeg Police Service budget has increased 80%.  Over that same period of time, the City of Winnipeg’s budget has increased 68%.  As well, the police service’s share of the overall City budget has increased from 21% in 2006 to over 26% in the proposed 2016 budget.

The 2016 preliminary budget makes many other important investments.  It fulfills the City’s $10 million commitment toward the construction of Freedom Road, an all-weather road for Shoal Lake First Nation #40, by contributing a further $6 million toward the design and construction of the required bridges.

The 2016 preliminary budget continues to identify administrative efficiencies and tax supported savings that are invested into the renewal of regional streets.  This year, the budget identifies $11.1 million in administrative efficiencies and tax supported savings that are invested directly into the Regional Streets Renewal Program. It also embeds the $1 million Innovation Capital Fund annually to facilitate investment in new and innovative ideas to improve efficiency, service delivery and responsiveness in city operations.

We continue to chip away at a structural deficit that we inherited following many years of property tax freezes.  But we still have work to do.

While the 2016 preliminary budget is balanced, it does forecast a $51.7 million deficit in 2017 and an $81.9 million deficit in 2018.

While the 2016 preliminary budget forecasts a challenging fiscal position in future years, we managed to reduce the deficit projected in 2017 by over 50 per cent from $115.2 million to $51.7 million.

Moving forward, we need to continue examining responsible and reasonable ways to address the structural deficit while we continue to work with other municipalities to obtain a fair share and a fair say in how provincial infrastructure dollars are invested in our communities.

As we continue this work, the preliminary 2016 City budget puts us on a disciplined and responsible track that builds our City for the future and invests in key services you’ve told us you need.