Winnipeg’s 2021 city budget to be released Friday

Winnipeg’s proposed city budget will be released on Friday, and the full impact of the pandemic on city coffers will be revealed.

City of Winnipeg Finance Chair Scott Gillingham told 680CJOB earlier this week that the city is still facing a deficit, despite what they believe will be a small $1-million surplus.

“If you take a look at the entire city, across all city departments — including Transit and parking — then we’re looking at a city-wide deficit of $23 million at the end of the year,” he said.

Read more: City of Winnipeg releases financial forecast

Gillingham said the surplus was only possible due to the number of actions taken to reduce non-discretionary spending, like temporarily laying off employees in the community services department and Winnipeg Transit.

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The prospect of a looming deficit is not a surprise, as Gillingham and Mayor Brian Bowman has been warning about that for the past several months.

Winnipeg Transit lost the most cash. In an administrative report that was presented to the finance committee on Oct. 14, the transit authority projected a $32.4 million shortfall, up from $29.1 million in the last financial status and forecast report.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Winnipeg announces temporary layoffs of over 670 city workers – Apr 15, 2020

At the height of the pandemic, transit ridership plummeted by 72 per cent, the city has said.

Gillingham said he expects money from the federal government to cover that deficit, but that the city is still waiting on formal communication from the province before receiving the municipal portion of the federal Safe Restart program funds,

Winnipeg’s allocation is expected to be $42.2 million.

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“The federal Safe Restart program has provided funding that will greatly assist the city’s ongoing efforts to address the financial challenges caused by COVID-19,” said Gillingham earlier this month.

“Safe Restart funds will be allocated to address the city’s significant forecasted shortfall in Transit, as well as to offset revenue losses in the operating budget. We will continue to be vigilant and carefully manage the ongoing financial impacts of the pandemic.”

Read more: Library hours, leisure guide programming, U-Pass all casualties in Winnipeg city budget

The city of Winnipeg moved to a multi-year budget process in 2019. The four-year operating and capital budgets outline proposed spending for programming and infrastructure improvements.

Last year’s budget saw a property tax increase of 2.33 per cent and the business tax reduced to 4.84 per cent.

There were changes made to city library operating hours, the John Blumeburg Golf Course near Headingley was put up for sale, and $141 million was spent on road renewal.

Mayor Brian Bowman announced on Wednesday that city staffers once again face layoffs due to COVID-19 closures.

“Unfortunately the provincial public health orders have directly impacted city services and our staff.”

Jason Shaw, who heads up Winnipeg’s emergency operations centre, said the city has been working with the Canadian Union of Public Employees to remove restrictions on collective agreements that exist for affected employees, meaning some may have the opportunity to be redeployed.

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