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Budget shuffled without new costs

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SOME minor budget shuffling took place Friday at city hall with no change in the bill to taxpayers.

Mayor Sam Katz and his executive policy committee were able to add several new items into their proposed civic budget for 2014 -- and did it without any further tax increases.

EPC budget changes

-- Sherbrook Pool: $1.671 million (new).

-- Winnipeg Art Gallery: $75,000 grant (new) for its Inuit Art & Learning Centre capital campaign, and a commitment to find additional funds in the 2015-16 capital budget.

-- Two crisis community workers positions (new): reinstated in the budget, cost covered through department management-vacancy savings.

-- Western Canada Aviation Museum: $75,000 grant (new)for its capital campaign for a new facility to be built on the site of the now-demolished Winnipeg International Airport terminal; a commitment for additional funds in the 2015-16 capital budget.

-- African Canadian Foundation: $39,000 grant (new) to assist in developing a business plan for the construction of an African cultural and community centre in the downtown area.

-- Heritage Winnipeg: $5,000 addition to its existing $25,000 grant.

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"We're making progress on some significant issues that are important to Winnipeggers," finance chairman Russ Wyatt (Transcona) told reporters following the brief EPC meeting.

"Reinvesting in the infrastructure of our city and having a plan to do that... and reinvesting into parks and recreation, which is really important to the quality of life to Winnipeggers."

The essence of EPC's 2014 budget remains the same as when it was first unveiled Nov. 29: a 2.95 per cent property tax increase to support a $967.8-million operating budget.

The amended budget proposal will go to a special meeting of council Tuesday for approval.

While there was genuine applause for the shuffling that saved Sherbrook Pool, not all members of council were impressed.

John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said the effort was a public-relations exercise, adding EPC didn't provide all the money needed to ensure the pool is reopened.

"This public-relations stunt may sound nice but it does not ensure that Sherbrook Pool will be opened," Orlikow said.

Katz said he was convinced the funding shortfall for the pool would be made up by the provincial government and a private donation, adding he expects to release details soon.

Nothing was dropped from the original proposed budget to make room for the new items approved Friday afternoon.

Two groups -- the Western Canada Aviation Museum and the Winnipeg Art Gallery -- made a last-minute pitch to EPC for $5 million each for their respective capital building projects.

But all they got was $75,000 and a commitment more money could be found.

Wyatt said the museum and the art gallery had approached EPC too late to have their large funding requests properly considered, adding both projects are considered valuable contributions to the city.

University students didn't get what they were hoping for.

Despite several appeals from individual students and student leaders from city campuses, EPC did not approve a $3.36-million annual subsidy for a discounted university transit pass.

However, Katz said he was working on a proposal with Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) to find the necessary funding.

"Probably in January, the two of us will be introducing a motion that will make U-Pass a reality," Katz said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 14, 2013 A8

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