September 23, 2020

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Budget crunch may stop city from opening 24-7 safe centres

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg City Councillor Sherri Rollins is the chairwoman of the protection, community services and parks committee.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg City Councillor Sherri Rollins is the chairwoman of the protection, community services and parks committee.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2019 (313 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

City of Winnipeg officials continue to struggle with how to respond to community needs in the face of a budget cap imposed on departments by Mayor Brian Bowman and his executive policy committee.

Coun. Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of the protection, community services and parks committee (and an EPC member), said she supports additional funding to target social problems related to the meth crisis, but the 0.5 per cent cap on the community services department will mean cuts to existing programs.

Rollins told reporters Thursday she supports establishing 24-7 safe-places programming for at-risk youth, women and transgender individuals at three city community centres, but realizes there is no money in the department budget to make that happen.

"When you have a 0.5 per cent increase, the department is going to come forward with the realities that is a de facto cut," Rollins said. The options are limited: either increasing taxes or imposing programming fees to generate necessary revenue, she said.

Developing a plan to establish and support 24-7 safe places was a directive given by the EPC to the administration, but it was missing from a recent report in response to the tri-level task force on the city’s meth crisis.

However, an appendix to the administrative report written by End Homelessness Winnipeg suggested buying or renovating existing facilities for 24-7 shelters could cost $500,000 to $750,000, with annual operating costs ranging from $430,000 to $550,000.

Coun. Ross Eadie, a member of the committee, suggested a dedicated property-tax increase — similar to that established for local and regional streets and to offset the costs of the southwest transit corridor — should be established for community programming.

Rollins said she supports Eadie’s idea, but doesn’t know if it’s achievable or if it would get majority support on council as it debates the city’s first multi-year budget plan (2020-23).

The committee will hear the department’s four-year budget plan during a special meeting Saturday.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

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