Manitoba

Giant financial hole for City of Winnipeg partially filled by federal government: year-end report

The City of Winnipeg's fiscal stabilzation fund would have been drained were it not for a big infusion of cash from the government of Canada, according to the city's year-end fiscal report.

Even as pandemic hit revenues, city avoided tapping fiscal stabilization fund thanks to $74.5M federal grant

Revenues from Winnipeg Transit fares and parking fees dropped significantly in 2020. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

A bandage made of cash from the federal government stemmed the City of Winnipeg's financial bleeding in 2020, according to the city's year-end fiscal report.

The city recorded a drop in revenue of $96 million from the year before, according to the report, which was released this week.

The majority of those losses came from dramatic drops in Winnipeg Transit ridership and revenue from parking fees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact meant a shortfall of $52 million on an annual operating budget of approximately $1.7 billion, according to the report.

A grant of $74.5 million from the federal Safe Restart Agreement allowed the city to avoid tapping into its fiscal stabilization fund. In fact, it helped the municipality sock away an extra $2.5 million into its reserve.

The fund's balance at the end of 2020 was $119.9 million.

The city recorded significant expenses in 2020 due to a $37-million refund for impact fees, after a court decision last summer that quashed the collection of the fees from developers and homebuyers in new Winnipeg suburbs.

However, the city saw costs for snow clearing drop $14 million. 

A number of measures were put in place last year to help the city weather the financial storm from the pandemic. Those included temporary layoffs of some city staff, a hiring freeze and a freeze on senior management salaries, as well as using debt instead of cash for some projects.

Despite the uncertain financial times, the city saw revenue increase from property taxes by $15 million, mostly due to higher assessments of the value of homes. 

The city's year-end financial report is set to be presented at a meeting of council's executive policy committee next Tuesday.

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