Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bowman open to civic spending penalties

Mayoral candidate wants to save $10 million a year

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Mayoral candidate Brian Bowman will not rule out forcing cuts on civic departments that do not comply with his campaign promise to find $10 million in savings annually in the city budget.

While Bowman said Thursday he would find the savings from energy efficiencies and new technology, Bowman told the Free Press Friday those were only possible areas to find cuts, adding he expects savings will come from other areas as well.

Bowman repeated his assurance there would be no job layoffs or staff reductions and that police, fire and paramedics would be excluded from the process.

"I'm not proposing (department) penalties at this stage, but that's something I wouldn't rule out," Bowman said. The penalties "would be something for consideration," by a new committee tasked to find the savings.

In his campaign announcement Thursday, Bowman said he expects to find $10 million annually -- the equivalent of two per cent of the city's tax-supported budget -- in additional savings from the city's operating budget, with all of that money directed to street repairs.

Civic union leader Mike Davidson said Bowman's promise is unrealistic, adding he fears it will result in drastic service cuts.

Davidson, president of CUPE Local 500, said city hall's vacancy management goal of saving $14 million has left civic departments shorthanded and unable to deliver services to the level expected by residents, citing the example of the complaints of the inadequate snow-clearing efforts this past winter.

"Our crews worked around the clock (this winter)," Davidson said. "You can't keep operating a city like that.

"Winnipeggers have had their services cut to the bone and I think they deserve better than that."

Davidson said Bowman has not consulted with CUPE about any of his campaign promises.

One councillor said the city didn't have mechanics on hand this winter to repair equipment when it broke down. Davidson said there were times when firefighters found fire hydrants were dry or they were buried under snow.

"You need a certain amount of money and manpower to run a city our size -- that has to happen otherwise you put the city into jeopardy," Davidson said.

City hall is already committed to spending $84.2 million on regional and local streets annually. City council approved a 2.95 per cent property-tax increase for 2014, with two percentage points directed toward regional and local road repairs.

The city is examining alternative methods of service delivery. It has contracted out its garbage and recycling pickup and a large percentage of its snow-clearing program. In November, council approved a new five-year telephone contract that would convert its existing 4,000 phones from analog to an Internet VoIP system, expected to save $300,000 annually.

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.

Bowman cited simple methods, such as replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED lights and dropping the use of Microsoft Outlook for email and replacing it with a free email service, as how the city can produce the savings.

A city spokesman said the city spends about $130,000 annually on its licensing agreements for Outlook email software.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 12, 2014 A10

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