Friday the 13th has turned out to be terrible for the City of Winnipeg’s balance sheet, thanks to a pile of bad news embedded in a series of newly published finance reports.
The city blew its entire snow-clearing budget for 2014 during the first three months of the year, has racked up a $3.5-million tab for dealing with the frozen-pipe crisis, will incur additional costs to complete the twinning of Plessis Road, the improvement of Polo Park-area roads and the completion of new roads in Waverley West.
According to a quarterly financial status report, the city spent $40.6 million on snow clearing from January to March. The annual snow-clearing budget is $32 million. Combined with other operating cost overruns, the city is in position to record a $21.4-million deficit on its $968-million operating budget by the end of the year.
Projected deficits, however, rarely turn out to be actual deficits of the same size, as the city will attempt to cut back on discretionary spending for the rest of the year.
But the news is grim in an election year when at least 11 of 16 members of council will seek to reclaim their seats.
The same status report also pegged the cost of dealing with the frozen-pipe crisis at $3.5 million, but those costs will be absorbed by water-and-waste ratepayers and do not affect the operating budget.
A series of status reports for major capital projects, however, contain more bad news. The Plessis Road twinning will cost the city an additional $3 million even though it’s not overbudget, thanks to a one-year delay in completion that negated the terms of a funding deal with Ottawa and Manitoba.
A new Polo Park road-improvement project has seen its budget increase to $45 million from $40 million. And the long-delayed construction of new roads through Waverley West is up another $7.9 million to $77.6 million. This project originally was supposed to cost $54.3 million when it was announced in 2010.