Winnipeggers should brace for a property tax increase, despite the city projecting an operating surplus of $7.7 million from 2012.
The city's finance committee met Thursday and chair Coun. Russ Wyatt said while he's not certain how much the taxes could go up next year, it makes sense to keep up with inflation.
"I think it would be irresponsible to not also budget for inflation. Every other business enterprise budgets for inflation," Wyatt told reporters on Thursday.
The city had held the line on property taxes for 14 consecutive years until breaking that freeze in 2012, saying it could no longer hold the line and try finding other ways to cover the costs of running its services.
As a result, taxes were boosted by 3.5 per cent, which is approximately the rate of inflation in Canada.
"There's a need and, I think, a financial responsibility to keep up with inflation," Wyatt said.
"Otherwise, what you're going to end up having one day down the road is a council coming along and saying all of a sudden we need a 10 per cent or 15 per cent — you know, outrageous increases."
But some Winnipeg homeowners are balking at news of another property tax hike coming.
Surinder Singh said his taxes have shot up by $1,200 in the last two years because of increasing property values on his River Heights home.
"I'm certainly not happy about the tax increase because at the end of the day, what services are they providing you?" he said.
Singh said his street and back lane are in poor shape, and garbage pickup delays associated with the city's new collection system makes him think he's not getting good value for his tax dollar.
Police need money
The city saved money this past year on reduced costs for snow clearing and insect control, thanks to a mild winter and few mosquitoes.
But the police service is looking at getting a chunk of those savings.
It has racked up its overtime expenses and is seeking an extra $640,000, primarily to help pay for officers' time spent waiting to testify in court and on traffic enforcement duties.
The force had a $1.27 million shortfall but has recouped some of that through "salary and benefit budgets," according to a report that went to the finance committee.
Police Chief Devon Clunis said the service is focused on finding every efficiency possible.
"Right now we have some good relationships ongoing with the folks in justice, but we are trying to see how we can be more efficient with all of our resources, realizing again that all of this is coming out of the public's purse," he said.