There was more hand-wringing and debate among committee members Thursday night. But when the meeting ended, all proposed service and staff cuts from the planning, property and development department (PPD) were moved along in the Winnipeg budget process without any changes.
The four councillors on the PPD committee agreed they didn’t like the cuts and effect they would have, but only Coun. Janice Lukes voted against them — explaining she wanted to follow the example set by the public works committee earlier in the day, which rejected all proposed cuts for Transit.
"I’m not supportive of moving any (of the cuts) along," Lukes said, adding the city can’t afford to trim Transit in its 2020-23 budget when the city’s population is expected to increase by 12,000 annually every year.
To meet a four-year budget freeze target, the department was proposing to eliminate several key staffing positions, including a senior urban designer, three housing inspectors, a commercial inspector and historical buildings officer.
Lukes proposed referring only the committee’s concerns and the submissions from the public, which were overwhelmingly opposed to the cuts.
She said the department wasn’t given enough time to develop a proper four-year plan, and councillors and the public weren’t given enough time or information to propose alternatives to the proposed cuts.
While the other councillors — Brian Mayes, Sherri Rollins and Matt Allard — said they shared Lukes’s concerns, in the end, they voted to send the department proposals as "information only," along with all other submissions heard by the committee and the committee’s concerns.
"We don’t agree with the department proposals; we’re only moving them along," said Mayes, who chaired the meeting.
Mayes, Rollins and Allard are members of the executive policy committee, which is responsible for reviewing all the department submissions and preparing a draft budget, which will be released in February.
Department director John Kiernan told the committee he and other department heads were instructed in June to prepare a 2020 budget based on 2019 figures, along with a forecast for the next three years. He said he only learned in October all four years were to be balanced and the department budget was to be frozen at 2019 levels.
Kiernan said he and his staff only had 19 days to develop a package of cuts that would balance the department’s budget for four years. Kiernan said a budget freeze works out to a two per cent annual reduction, as the department had to scale back its expenses to compensate for salary increases and other expenses it has no control over.
The Winnipeg Police Board and council’s innovation and economic development committee will go through the same process today.
The cuts proposed by the department include:
2020-21: eliminate economic development administrator, cemeteries CSR, finance clerk, neighbourhood economic development officer, commercial inspector ($398,000); eliminate $180,000 grant to Winnipeg Housing Rehabilitation Corp; reduce municipal accommodations spending by $178,000; reduce computer animation program; eliminate riverbank greenways program; reduce downtown enhancement program and BIZ zones, image routes and neighbourhood main streets program; eliminate public art strategy; reduce developer paybacks; reduce riverbank stabilization physical asset protection program;
2022: eliminate senior urban designer, five permit intake scanning clerks, three housing inspectors, two technical assistants, historical buildings officer; reduce cemeteries improvements;
2023: delete two supervisory positions, two permit technicians and three inspections scheduling clerks and one zoning and permits clerk.
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.