Preliminary City budget for 2020-23 tabled
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This article was published 12/03/2020 (1179 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When the City of Winnipeg set out to deliver a balanced, multi-year budget, community groups across northeast Winnipeg voiced their concerns around proposed cuts. While a budget has been tabled, doubts remain.
On March 6, Mayor Brian Bowman tabled the preliminary 2020-23 multi-year balanced budgets for the City of Winnipeg at a special Executive Policy Committee meeting.
“As other levels of government struggle to balance their budgets one year at a time, we are presenting balanced operating budgets for each of the next four consecutive years,” Bowman said in a statement.
During the budget process, a number of cuts were proposed, including the closure of the Transcona Kinsmen Centennial Pool, along with other City-owned facilities and programs. In the end, no closures of facilities currently operating were included in the budget, though activities within those facilities are likely to see cuts as a result of $4.7 million in expenditure reductions.
“We’re all very elated (that the pool will remain open),” said Claudette Wills, an area resident who helped gather over 1,100 signatures on a petition protesting the potential Transcona pool closure. “But who knows, we’re kind of holding our breath to see how it all plays out.”
For example, it is proposed that all City libraries will stay open no later than 8 p.m., and would not be open Sunday. Currently, the Henderson Library is one of six libraries open Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.
The budget also tasks the civil service with reducing the number of buildings the City owns, including those leased by third parties.
The Transcona Retired Citizens Organization, which operates out of a City-owned building at 328 Whittier Ave. W, is one of those groups. Their lease is up on May 31. Club president Yvonne Boisclair said they have received no word from the City on whether or not their lease will be extended.
“If they decide to close us down, they will have a fight on their hands,” Boisclair said.
Changes to public transit, which includes cancelling the U-PASS program for university students in May while instituting free transit for children under 12 years of age in 2021, are also proposed.
The City also proposes to increase its budget for dealing with tree planting, pruning, and Dutch Elm disease control by six per cent, from $11.8 million in 2019 to $12.5 million in 2023, while $25 million over four years has been proposed for the urban forest enhancement program and reforestation improvements, marking a 60 per cent increase over the four previous years.
“We’re really glad to see that they have announced a $2 million increase, but that doesn’t get us where we need to go,” Mellanie Lawrenz, a member of the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association’s tree committee, told The Herald.
In the lead-up to the budget, GeNA and other neighbourhood groups had lobbied the City to fully restore funding to the urban forestry department.
“The goal is having a fully funded forestry department so that we have a healthy urban forest canopy for years to come,” Lawrenz said. “We encouraged the City to take it from the roads budget, and obviously that didn’t happen.”
Road renewal projects throughout the City are projected to receive funding totalling almost $847 million or $141 million per year. The budget also commits to funding the Winnipeg Police Service to the tune of $313.1 million by 2023. Two new firehalls, in Windsor Park and Waverley West, are also proposed.
Special meetings of the City’s standing policy committees were held last week, with a final meeting of the standing policy committee on water and waste, riverbank management and the environment scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Wed., March 18. On Thurs., March 19, the executive policy committee will hold a special meeting at 9 a.m. to hear from delegations on budgets. The next day, the EPC is expected to table its final budget recommendations. Council is set to consider the final budget at a special meeting on Wed., March 25 at 9:30 a.m.
For more information on the proposed budgets, visit winnipeg.ca
Sheldon Birnie is a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112