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All in favour of budget: 14-2

Mayor's first budget helped along with several amendments

Coun. Matt Allard and Mayor Brian Bowman seem to be having a good time as the 2015 operating and capital budgets are passed Monday.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Coun. Matt Allard and Mayor Brian Bowman seem to be having a good time as the 2015 operating and capital budgets are passed Monday.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2015 (1576 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman received near-unanimous support for his first budget Monday.

Council voted 14-2 for the new operating and capital budgets, with only Couns. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) voting against.

With the help of some last-minute amendments introduced on the floor of council, Bowman was able to secure the support of most councillors for the operating and capital budgets.

Bowman credited finance chairman Coun. Marty Morantz and other councillors for securing strong support for the budget.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/3/2015 (1576 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Mayor Brian Bowman received near-unanimous support for his first budget Monday.

Council voted 14-2 for the new operating and capital budgets, with only Couns. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) and Shawn Dobson (St. Charles) voting against.

With the help of some last-minute amendments introduced on the floor of council, Bowman was able to secure the support of most councillors for the operating and capital budgets.

Bowman credited finance chairman Coun. Marty Morantz and other councillors for securing strong support for the budget.

"This was a good exercise in collaboration," Bowman told reporters following the five-hour special meeting.

"Near-unanimous support is something I'm very proud of."

Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said it was important the community see the extent of the support Bowman had on council for his first budget.

"I'm very pleased that council voted so overwhelmingly in favour of these budgets," Morantz said. "We wanted to see if we could bring as many councillors together in a show of support for this new mayor's very first budget. I think 14-2 is a very good result, and I think Winnipeggers will take a lot more comfort knowing 14 councillors supported the budget this year instead of nine or 10."

There were few changes to the budget documents tabled at executive policy committee three weeks ago.

This budget will bring in a 2.3 per cent property tax increase, a 60 cent per-foot frontage levy and continued spending on local and regional streets.

Bowman defended the budget on the floor of council, saying it protects the core services residents want. He continued to blame previous mayors — Susan Thompson, Glenn Murray and Sam Katz — for 14 years of budgetary freezes, which he said left Winnipeg with a massive infrastructure deficit.

"We believe this proposed plan offers Winnipeggers the certainty of knowing exactly where their tax dollars are flowing, which is to projects and initiatives at the very top of their list of priorities," Bowman said.

While there was little doubt the budget would pass, several councillors conceded the amendments — dubbed by Morantz as "flowers, pools and patios" — were enough to give Bowman a large majority.

Couns. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and John Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) admitted they were voting in support of a budget for the first time since they had been on council.

The amendments adopted Monday restored some of the most controversial — and least expensive — cuts contained in the budget when it was proposed at the beginning of the month to the budget:

— Flower planting downtown and on image routes will continue this year.

— There will be no extra legal fees charged to restaurant/bar owners for opening patios.

— An additional $50,000 will be spent to promote aquatic programming, and the cuts to indoor pool staffing was cut in half, to $50,000 from $100,000.

— A last-minute grant to the Variety Heritage Water Park at The Forks to cover its water bills for its spray pad, up to $35,000.

— A $60,000 grant to the East Winnipeg Sports Association, Buhler Recreation Park.

Morantz said the last-minute deals were made in response to the strong arguments made by some councillors and the public. The cost of the changes amounted to $372,290 out of the city's total tax-supported spending of $994.1 million. Morantz said the additional funding linked to the amendments will have to be made up in department savings throughout the year.

Schreyer said while he was pleased with the amendments and the budget process as a whole, he couldn't support a budget that included the seven-kilometre Southwest Transitway extension to the University of Manitoba.

It currently runs 3.6 km from Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks to Jubilee Avenue at Pembina Highway.

Dobson articulated the strongest opposition to the budget. "Unfortunately, this budget has missed the mark," Dobson said. Coming up with a balanced budget resulted from dipping into many of the city's reserve accounts, he said, which won't be there next year.

Dobson said he was disappointed most of council played no part in drafting this budget — it was the product of the mayor and the six members of his executive policy committee.

"Moving forward, we need to engage in some strategic thinking and include the nine other members of council so they are involved and have meaningful input," Dobson said. "Only in this way can the budget process be considered open and transparent."

Dobson said arriving at a budget in the future isn't going to get any easier unless the city takes some drastic measures.

"We can stay on this path, which will lead us to ever-increasing difficulties in balancing budgets in coming years with massive tax increases, or we can choose a different path," Dobson said, adding he favoured a hiring freeze, stopping the transitway project, no capital improvements in any civic department, stop all discretionary spending including renovations and upgrades and ensuring developers pay a greater fee for new suburbs.

"Urban sprawl at the city's expense cannot continue."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 7:28 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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