Winnipeg homeowners face tax hike close to 3%

Winnipeggers will likely be paying more property taxes in the coming year, with the city promising the extra money will go towards building and repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
Winnipeggers will likely be paying more property taxes in the coming year, with Mayor Sam Katz saying more revenue is needed towards building and repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure. 2:02

Winnipeggers will likely be paying more property taxes in the coming year.

A hike of close to three per cent is being proposed in the preliminary budget, which is being tabled Friday at city hall, CBC News has learned.

The added revenue from the increase will primarily go towards building and repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

"Infrastructure is our number one priority," Mayor Sam Katz told reporters on Thursday.

Following the tabling of the preliminary operating and capital budgets, the city will conduct a number of public consultations before council votes on it in December.

If approved, Winnipeg homeowners will be paying nearly seven per cent more than they did in 2012.

Property taxes jumped by 3.87 per cent in January 2013.

A one per cent property tax increase that was dedicated to fixing roads had been previously announced. An extra two per cent generates around $9 million more for the city to spend — mostly to cover the costs of loans to do the work.

Some homeowners, like Laurie McIvor, reluctantly accepted the idea of another tax increase on Thursday.

"I guess it's acceptable because we went so many years without.... why weren't we paying more taxes like 10 or 12 years ago? Everybody went on a political bandwagon -- zero percent increase," he said.

"I think people are prepared to pay, as long as the money's going to be put into the right things."

But others, like Jim Cumming, said the extra revenue has to be spent properly.

"I don't like what I see at city hall. I don't like the fire hall issue, the Hu's on First issue, the parking lot issue. All that sort of thing," he said.

"Obviously I don't like to see that, no. That's why I'd like to see this money actually going to what it's supposed to go for."

Some councillors oppose tax hike

Charleswood-Tuxedo Coun. Paula Havixbeck said she is adamantly opposed to an increase in property taxes and won't support it, given the recent land swap fire hall scandal and cost overruns on the police headquarters.

"We can't expect citizens to pay for the kind of mismanagement that we're seeing at city hall," she said.

St. James-Brooklands Coun. Scott Fielding said there's no reason homeowners should pay more in property taxes to fix the city's infrastructure.

"I think a three per cent property tax increase after the year that we've seen at city hall, with some of the mismanagement that's been happening, is something that I think is too high right now," he said.

Fielding said the city can find $4.5 million from within the city's current operations to borrow what's needed to fix Winnipeg roads instead of raising taxes.

Fielding said the city takes in $4.5 million more for every percentage point increase in taxes, so there's no need to raise property taxes to find that much money.

"They say, 'OK, we're going to take that, we're going to put it on the markets. We're going to borrow a whole bunch more money — that's a part of it — and use that … money to service the debt,'" Fielding said.

"What I'm saying is I think you could find that $4.5 million in our existing system, right now, without increasing taxes."

Scott Fielding's Q4 budget projections analysis

Fielding emailed reporters this document on Thursday with ideas on how the city could fix its infrastructure without a property tax increase.


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