Winnipeg city council passes 2019 budget with minor tweaks

By | March 20, 2019

Winnipeg homeowners will pay 2.33 per cent more in property tax and see a cut to road repairs in the 2019 budget passed by city council at a special meeting Wednesday.

The 2.33 per cent tax increase will mean the average household will pay about $40 more on their property tax bill. The money is slated to go to infrastructure spending.

There is no frontage levy increase in 2019 and there are no new fees or charges included in the budget.

While tweaks were made to the spending plan since it was tabled March 1, the bulk of the document remains unchanged.

The budget now includes money to hire a supervisor of urban forestry in the public works department to plan and oversee the city’s response to the emerald ash borer — an insect with a history of devastating populations of ash trees.

The budget will also see the one-time $500,000 funding cut to the Winnipeg Arts Council’s public art program, which was proposed in the initial budget, spread out over two years — a $250,000 cut in 2019 and the same in 2020.

Winnipeg plans to spend $86 million fixing its roads in 2019, down $30 million from the $116 million budgeted last year.

Mayor Brian Bowman argues the province still owes Winnipeg $40 million in road renewal funding, and says that shortfall is behind the reduction in this year’s road spending.

The province’s Progressive Conservative government denies any obligation to pay the $40 million and says there was a political commitment — by the previous NDP government — to fund a five-year roads plan.

“None of these political commitments bound a successor government,” provincial Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said in an open letter to Mayor Brian Bowman on Monday.

City council finance chair Scott Gillingham (St. James) argues the Tory government, by funding the third and fourth years of the five-year program, committed itself to the road renewal funding plan for its fifth year.

The budget also includes a promise of a low-income bus pass, money for bus safety improvements and a freeze on transit fares.

Both the operating and capital budgets for 2019 were approved in an 11-5 vote at Wednesday’s meeting.

Councillors Kevin Klein (Charleswood–Tuxedo–Westwood), Janice Lukes (Waverley West), Shawn Nason (Transcona), Ross Eadie (Mynarski) and Jason Schreyer (Elmwood) voted against the plan.