Budget goals for St. Boniface
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2019 (1270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
I wanted to shed some light on the City of Winnipeg budget situation.
There has been quite a bit of press lately regarding the City of Winnipeg’s departmental budget proposals.
A bit of context. For the first time in memory, the City of Winnipeg is making its departmental submissions in public. In the past, departments submitted their proposals to a group of city councillors and the mayor behind closed doors, and that group had to make the difficult decisions in private, and make a recommendation to council and the public for consideration. Now, that’s all happening in public. Also, the City’s first “four year, multi-year budget,” means that difficult choices previously pushed into “forecasts” for next year, are now being dealt with.
Committees have now heard delegations from the public on all forecasts. It flows next to executive policy council, then council. Finally, a draft City budget will be tabled and a final balanced budget needs to be approved by law, no later than March 31, 2020.
The proposals are not set in stone. I am poring over budget books and departmental presentations, talking to colleagues, communicating with you, stakeholders, staff and anyone else who might be able to help to come up with solutions to this budget.
St. Boniface is hit particularly hard by the budget proposals, mostly because of how wealthy a municipality St. Boniface was prior to joining unicity. The City was rich because of our large industrial park. We now share the tax revenue from it with the rest of the city.
Right now, my political priorities for St. Boniface ward include in no particular order:
• Protecting St. Boniface Museum’s funding;
• Cancelling the closure of Windsor Park Outdoor Pool and Happyland Pool;
• Preventing the loss of Maginot Arena and Bertrand ice capacity;
• Saving Champlain and Windsor Park wading pools;
• Protect fire halls and firefighting capacity in St. Boniface;
• Restoring the $5 million funding of the Bonivital pool in 2021;
• Getting back our funding to support community organizations like Seine our Seine; and
• Restoring parks spending to $200,000 per year, which is proposed to be cut by 50 per cent.
City-wide, I would like to see more funding for forestry, transit and active transportation. These areas are critical to making a sustainable city, which reduces greenhouse gases and traffic congestion.
All that said, it’s important we not forget the big picture. The City is in a dire fiscal situation. Growing costs related to policing, infrastructure, fire, and the myriad of other city services are all competing for the same limited resources.
Further, in the last two years, the provincial government has reduced its financial support for the City of Winnipeg by tens of millions of dollars, including in some cases by backing out of funding agreements retroactively after the end of the fiscal year, forcing the City to backfill the budget of previous years with the next. The financial shortfall from this grows larger every year.
Ultimately, without significant tax increases (which we don’t want) and without major cuts to other services (which we don’t want) the ultimate answer is a greater focus on infill and densification. Our city’s urban footprint has been growing at a much higher rate than our population for decades. This has created huge new demands on taxpayers to build more roads, new community centres, fire halls and police stations, and other services which must be duplicated outside of existing neighbourhoods. We must slow and eventually reverse this trend.
I look forward to your feedback in the coming weeks and months. The work continues.
St. Boniface ward report
Matt Allard is the city councillor for St. Boniface.