Manitoba

Winnipeg city council passes 2019 budget with minor tweaks

Winnipeg homeowners will pay 2.33 per cent more in property tax and see a cut to road repairs in the 2019 budget passed by council at a special meeting Wednesday.

Arts cut to be spread out over 2 years, new funding for emerald ash borer manager included in spending plan

Winnipeg council passed its 2019 budget on Wednesday. The spending plan will see a 2.33 per cent property tax increase, a hike on par with recent years. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Winnipeg homeowners will pay 2.33 per cent more in property tax and see a cut to road repairs in the 2019 budget passed by city council at a special meeting Wednesday.

The 2.33 per cent tax increase will mean the average household will pay about $40 more on their property tax bill. The money is slated to go to infrastructure spending.

"We have to build this city for the future," said Mayor Brian Bowman. "This budget moves us in the right direction but not as fast as I'd like in terms of [road spending]."

There is no frontage levy increase in 2019 and there are no new fees or charges included in the budget.

While tweaks were made to the spending plan since it was tabled March 1, the bulk of the document remains unchanged.

The budget now includes money to hire a supervisor of urban forestry in the public works department to plan and oversee the city's response to the emerald ash borer — an insect with a history of devastating populations of ash trees.

The budget will also see the one-time $500,000 funding cut to the Winnipeg Arts Council's public art program, which was proposed in the initial budget, spread out over two years — a $250,000 cut in 2019 and the same in 2020.

Winnipeg plans to spend $86 million fixing its roads in 2019, down $30 million from the $116 million budgeted last year. The cut means spending on repairs for residential streets and lanes will be frozen this year.

Bowman argues the province still owes Winnipeg $40 million in road renewal funding, and says that shortfall is behind the reduction in this year's road spending.

2.33% hikes may not be sustainable: Bowman

The province's Progressive Conservative government denies any obligation to pay the $40 million and says there was a political commitment — by the previous NDP government — to fund a five-year roads plan.

"None of these political commitments bound a successor government," provincial Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said in an open letter to Bowman on Monday.

City council finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) argues the Tory government, by funding the third and fourth years of the five-year program, committed itself to the road renewal funding plan for its fifth year.

During the 2018 mayoral campaign, Bowman pledged to keep property tax increases to 2.33 per cent per year over the next four years — provided the province didn't reduce its funding to the city.

He said Wednesday property taxes may go up more than that in the coming years if the city does not get more help from Manitoba.

"I'm unsure whether this is a sustainable approach going forward," he said. "My campaign commitment was 2.33 per cent unless there's new incremental cuts from the province."

The budget also includes a promise of a low-income bus pass, money for bus safety improvements and a freeze on transit fares.

Both the operating and capital budgets for 2019 were approved in an 11-5 vote at Wednesday's meeting.

Councillors Kevin Klein (Charleswood–Tuxedo–Westwood), Janice Lukes (Waverley West), Shawn Nason (Transcona), Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Jason Schreyer (Elmwood) voted against the plan.

A separate clause in the budget proposed using part of the 2.33 per cent property tax increase to fix bridges, along with roads and building rapid transit. The clause was approved in a 12-4 vote.

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Winnipeg. Before moving to Manitoba in 2015, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

With files from Bartley Kives

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.