Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City budget $13 million in red

Report blames snow, wary drivers; deputy mayor isn't worried

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Blame more careful drivers and snowstorms for putting the city in an almost $13-million deficit this year.

In a budget status report coming to next week's finance committee meeting, city councillors will see that based on first-quarter results, the civil service is estimating a projected deficit of $12.8 million by the end of the year for the City of Winnipeg.

The report says chief among the items putting the city in debt are the Winnipeg Police Service -- in the hole $4.7 million because of reduced revenues from photo radar and traffic enforcement -- as well as going $9.2 million over budget for snow-clearing, which caused the public works department to post a deficit of $9.7 million.

But the report says the administration believes the city will be able to balance the books by the end of the year through several measures, including controlling expenses, without affecting core services.

Deputy mayor Russ Wyatt, chairman of the finance committee, said he agrees the city's books will likely be in the black by the end of the year.

"In 2011, two years ago, at the exact same time, we were $13.9 million in a deficit position," Wyatt said.

"By the end of the year, we were beyond $3 million in surplus. It's normal to have these fluctuations."

Wyatt said the city is in the red right now because of fewer photo-radar infractions, more snow-clearing than average and police-officer pensions.

City spokeswoman Tammy Melesko said Winnipeg was hit by more blizzards than normal during the first quarter of the year.

Melesko said the snow forced the city to carry out five truck plows on priority 1 and priority 2 streets, when normally there would be only three during an entire year, and two plows of residential areas.

The report also said taxpayers may have to bail out the community services department because it is $1.4 million in the red due to "program registration and arena revenues (that are) less than expected."

Wyatt said the city may have to look at changing the way it performs some services, such as not plowing residential streets down to the pavement after major snowstorms.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 A18

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