City’s snow-clearing budget logs $28-M overrun
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/04/2022 (415 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The massive amount of snow that fell in the city and made travel treacherous at the start of the year have created a hefty overrun for the City of Winnipeg’s budget.
The city exceeded its snow and ice clearing budget for January and February by a whopping $28 million, a finance report shows.
“There was a lot of plowing there but there was also so much hauling (of snow.) The amount of snow they hauled away was unprecedented. That’s where the massive cost really was,” said Coun. Jeff Browaty, who was recently appointed as council’s finance chairperson.
Browaty said the $28-million overrun is in addition to the $6.3 million budgeted for snow clearing in January and $5.1 million budgeted for February. That brings the total tab to clear snow and ice beyond $39 million for just two months — and exceeds the entire $35-million snow clearing budget that was meant to last throughout 2022.
“We spent more in the first two months of 2022 compared to the budget for the entire year. It speaks to how much the snow-clearing budget can fluctuate from year to year… There were more residential plowing operations and it felt like we were continuously (clearing) our regional streets and collector streets,” said Browaty.
The city had budgeted $4.8 million to clear ice and snow in March but is still calculating the actual cost.
City policy standards, not the budget itself, determine the extent to which the city plows, hauls away snow, and sands roads. The rules are designed to ensure roads meet set standards, even when Mother Nature dumps far more snow than usual.
Environment Canada has reported that 43 cm of snow fell on Winnipeg in January, followed by at least 50 cm in February.
During typical years, extra plowing costs are covered by surpluses in other city departments or a transfer from the city’s rainy day fund.
In recent years, however, COVID-19 has eliminated those options. The pandemic is expected to cost the city nearly $223 million overall by the end of 2022, including expenses and lost revenues since 2020.
Those losses have drained millions of dollars from city reserves and created deficits in multiple city departments.
Browaty said it may be time to consider changing the overall annual budget for snow clearing, which has hovered around $35 million for years.
“It’s perhaps time to look at (whether or not) the annual allocation is the right amount. The best practice is to have a snow-clearing reserve, so that in a good year, we bank something and in a bad year, there’s (coverage) for it,” he said.
Browaty said he’s seeking information on how much money is available in city reserves for that purpose.
The city faces other financial risks, in part due to soaring gas prices. A finance report warns fuel could cost Winnipeg Transit an extra $6 million to $9 million this year, if prices remain high.
The city is hopeful it could claim part of a $750-million fund the federal government has promised to help municipalities pay off transit operating shortfalls. That funding would be conditional on the province matching federal funding and speeding up efforts to improve the housing supply.
Browaty said he’s hopeful the province will announce its participation in the program when it unveils its 2022 budget on Tuesday.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.