Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman says he can squeeze an additional $10 million every year from the city budget to fund additional infrastructure projects.
At a morning news conference, Bowman said he’ll work with staff and council to find the extra funds — the equivalent of two per cent of the city’s tax-supported operating budget — from existing operations, without layoffs or staff reductions.
"Winnipeggers feel the impact of an aging infrastructure every day and that’s not acceptable," Bowman said.
City hall is already committed to spending $84.2 million on regional and local streets annually.
Bowman said he’ll direct an additional $10 million every year to rebuilding roads, adding he expects to find the money through "energy efficiencies and taking advantage of new technologies."
Bowman said the savings will come from all departments, except police, fire and paramedic services.
This is Bowman’s first policy announcement that doesn’t involve vague assurances about making city hall more transparent.
City council approved a 2.95 per cent property tax increase for 2014, with two percentage points directed towards regional and local road repairs.
Council tried to squeeze more savings from the budget by forcing non-essential staff to take forced days off over Christmas. However, when council saw the overtime put in by staff this past winter as a result of frozen pipes, snow clearing and water main breaks, the politicians abandoned the plan as unrealistic.
Department heads and CUPE have questioned the wisdom and viability of finding savings through vacancy management — many department heads told council they don’t have enough staff do the work required of them.
But Bowman said he’s convinced from work done in other communities — singling out Edmonton — that Winnipeg can find the necessary savings through other efficiencies.
"The city of Edmonton has taken on a very similar initiative to the one I am proposing today," Bowman said. "Their plan has already resulted in some early positive results. This is a best practice that we can adopt here to help us move forward to build a stronger, modern Winnipeg."
Bowman’s plan involves the creation of an infrastructure investment committee, which he would chair, with staff from all departments and councillors who would work to find the additional $10 million in savings.