April 24, 2019

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No money for residential streets in last-minute budget changes from mayor, EPC

Winnipeggers might get some potholes on their streets patched, but there will be no major residential street reconstruction this year. (David Lipnowski / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Winnipeggers might get some potholes on their streets patched, but there will be no major residential street reconstruction this year. (David Lipnowski / Winnipeg Free Press files)

It looks like there won’t be any additional funds for residential street renewals this year.

Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee made some minor changes to the city’s proposed 2019 budget Tuesday but the changes didn't include any funds to restore the residential street program eliminated in response to the $40-million shortfall from the provincial government.

The budget package will be debated by all of council at a special meeting Wednesday.

Bowman told reporters there were lobbying efforts by some councillors and organizations to provide additional dollars, by increasing property taxes or taking on additional debt.

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It looks like there won’t be any additional funds for residential street renewals this year.

Mayor Brian Bowman and members of his executive policy committee made some minor changes to the city’s proposed 2019 budget Tuesday but the changes didn't include any funds to restore the residential street program eliminated in response to the $40-million shortfall from the provincial government.

The budget package will be debated by all of council at a special meeting Wednesday.

Bowman told reporters there were lobbying efforts by some councillors and organizations to provide additional dollars, by increasing property taxes or taking on additional debt.

"I don’t support that and EPC unanimously continues to support lowering our capital spend in roads to meet the provincial shortfall from last year’s road budget," Bowman said following the EPC meeting, where an additional $614,007 was put into the budget for a half-dozen initiatives.

Included in the budget will be a formal motion asking the province to restore the $40-million retroactively cut from the 2018 budget and to commit funds to a long-term residential street renewal program.

Council will also be asked to direct the administration to request an accounting from the province to explain how it believes the five-year, $250-million roads funding commitment at the heart of the $40-million dispute has been fulfilled.

Premier Brian Pallister's government has ignored a similar request from the Free Press.

The public works department had planned to rebuild 53 streets and 11 back lanes but all of that work was removed from the budget.

Bowman seems firm on capping the property tax increase at 2.3 per cent, which leaves little room for changes to the $1.12-billion operating budget.

Bowman and EPC also gave a nod to the union that represents the largest number of civic employees, CUPE 500, which has accused the Assiniboine Park Conservancy of contracting out custodial work, which is a breach of a 2010 agreement that set out its obligations when it took over management of the park and zoo.

EPC agreed with a union request to hinge the city’s operating grant to the Assiniboine Park Conservancy to confirmation the group is in compliance with the 2010 agreement.

The $500,000 cut to the Winnipeg Arts Council’s public arts program will be spread out over two years. (Winnipeg Arts Council)

The $500,000 cut to the Winnipeg Arts Council’s public arts program will be spread out over two years. (Winnipeg Arts Council)

Included in the last-minute changes that will be presented to council for the budget debate Wednesday is a partial restoration of the $500,000 cut to the Winnipeg Arts Council’s public arts program.

Bowman said instead of cutting the entire $500,000 this year and restoring it next year, EPC is proposing that the cut be split over two years — $250,000 for 2019 and $250,000 for 2020.

Also included in the package of budget amendments is:

• $100,000 for a consultant to develop a strategic planning session with all members of council in preparation for the shift to the multi-year planning and budgeting initiative that will take effect for 2020.

• $82,229, a retroactive adjustment to the 2017 universal funding formula for community centre grants, to accommodate for ward population changes.

• $97,200 to cover a one-time legal bill for unspecified consulting services.

• $69,578 to hire a supervisor in the urban forestry division to plan and implement the Emerald Ash Borer beetle emergency response plan.

• $15,000 to offset costs of hosting the 2020 Francophone and Francophile Cities Convention in Winnipeg.

The $614,007 additional funds for 2019 will come out of the $11.6 million in savings expected from department efficiencies.

In response to the community reaction to the budget, EPC also proposed changes to future years’ budgets, but those will have to be considered separately by council at a later time when those budgets come up for approval:

• $300,000 per year over the next six years for implementation of the off-leash dog areas master plan, to be considered in the 2020 capital budget.

• $99,565 in 2020 and $104,639 in 2021 to deal with the Emerald Ash Borer beetle.

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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