City of Winnipeg property owners can expect some sort of property-tax increase in 2013.
City council finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said the city’s second annual property-tax increase is all but inevitable – but it remains unclear how much it will be.
The pool of taxes collected from existing Winnipeg properties rose 3.5 per cent in 2012, ending a 14-year period of freezes and reductions. The city expects to collect a total of $447.3 million in property taxes this year, which funds almost half of the city’s $900-million operating budget.
Cost increases in delivering city services, especially policing and emergency services, will continue to drive up the operating tab, Wyatt said. He said the city’s hands are somewhat tied by the no-job-loss guarantees of its labour deal with its largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 500.
Wyatt said the city must find other cost savings nonetheless and pledged to find even more ways to engage in "managed competition," a mechanism that encourages CUPE to compete for service-delivery with the private sector.
CUPE recently launched an attack ad against the city, accusing Mayor Sam Katz and council of driving up costs through privatization of city services.
Wyatt said council will not resort to short-term measures such as avoiding transfers to reserve funds to stave off a tax increase in 2013. The city plans to top up its insect-control and snow-clearing reserves at the end of the year, using millions in savings from both programs in 2012.
Even after those transfers take place, the city is on pace to post to post a $7.7-million budget surplus at the end of 2012, based on figures from the end of September.
At the end of August, that surplus was projected to be $5.4 million. The final figure for the end of December will be known in February.
The 2013 operating budget, which will determine property tax changes, is expected to be tabled in February or March.
Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who does not sit on council’s executive policy committee, said another property-tax increase was news to her. Gerbasi has complained for several years that non-EPC councillors are not consulted about the budget.