Average Winnipeg homeowner to pay $142 more in taxes this year as budget announced

The average Winnipeg homeowner will pay $142 more this year as the city raises both property taxes and frontage levies.

The preliminary budget released Tuesday — the first for Scott Gillingham as Winnipeg’s mayor — calls for a 3.5 per cent property tax hike as well as a frontage levy increase of $1.50 per foot.

This pair of hikes, promised by Gillingham during his mayoral campaign last fall, will raise a combined $42 million for the city. However, they alone do not allow the city to keep pace with rising costs.

The city plans to spend $1.282 billion on all services in 2023, an increase of $88 million from last year. That works out to a 7.3 per cent spending hike after a year where Winnipeg’s overall inflation rate was 6.3 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Gillingham suggested the city had no choice but to hike spending above the rate of inflation.

“It’s to make the investments in our services the citizens expect,” he told reporters during a budget briefing.

The budget sets aside $5 million for a new transit security service, a police funding hike below the rate of inflation and $2.8 million set aside to begin planning the widening of Kenaston Boulevard and the western extension of Chief Peguis Trail. These were all Gillingham campaign promises.

Gillingham did not elaborate on what form of security personnel will ride buses this year. He does not believe they will be armed, but does expect them to be able to arrest people. He said transit safety is the key to ensuring transit ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The city plans to restore transit service to those levels by September, said council finance chair Jeff Browaty (North Kildonan).

Refilling rainy day fund

The budget also includes new fees, including new film production charges that run from $250 to $2,500. There’s also a new charge of $1,400 to $2,600 for firefighters to lift patients at privately-run medical facilities, such as personal care homes. The city currently charges only for ambulance service.

Overall, the budget represents something of a recovery from the pandemic, as the city is no longer expecting a revenue shortfall at the end of 2023. It also plans to begin replenishing the rainy day fund it used to backfill last year’s record budget deficit.

The city will shuffle $15 million from a waterworks fund into its fiscal stabilization reserve fund this year. But it still plans to draw $6 million against this rainy day fund and leave it $63 million shy of the city’s minimum level for the reserve fund at the end of this year.

Council policy now requires finance officials to come forward with a plan to fully replenish the rainy day fund over the coming years.

The average Winnipeg home will be charged $142 more this year as a result of tax hikes. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The city is also continuing to transfer only a very small amount of hard cash — $6 million —from its operating budget toward infrastructure. Nonetheless, the city plans to spend more money on infrastructure this year.

Gillingham’s first budget allocates $567 million to the capital budget, up $42 million from 2022.

The city plans to spend $156 million on road repairs, down $9 million from its record road renewal effort in 2022. But more of the city’s own money is devoted to roads after the end of a joint federal-provincial funding program.

One of the largest new projects is the replacement of Winnipeg Transit’s North End bus garage, which will be moved from Main Street in West Kildonan to a new location equipped to house electric or hydrogen buses. The city plans to spend $88 million this year toward the $200-million project.

There’s also $16 million set aside to the $39-million refurbishment of the St. Vital Bridge, which connects Osborne Street to Dunkirk Street, $2 million for a new recreation centre to serve the east side of Winnipeg and $1.5 million to fix up Rainbow Stage in Kildonan Park.

The capital budget also includes a tentative plan to further put off a major infrastructure project: The reconstruction of the Arlington Bridge. The city plans to study whether it’s feasible to extend its life instead of replacing it.

“We do not have the money for a new Arlington Bridge right now,” Gillingham said.

The city wants to study whether it’s feasible to put off the replacement of the Arlington Bridge for another 25 years. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The budget will be scrutinized at a series of council committee meetings beginning on March 8. Council will vote on it on March 22.

Gillingham said he allotted extra time this year for councillors and citizens to consider the spending plan.

“The goal is to engage more people in the budget,” he said.

2023 Winnipeg budget highlights

  • Operating budget (spending on city services): $1.282 billion, up $88 million from 2022.
  • Capital budget (tax-supported spending on infrastructure and equipment): $567 million, up $42 million from 2022. 
  • Tax hikes: Property taxes rise 3.5 per cent, up from 2.33 per cent in 2022. This will raise an additional $24 million for the city. Fontage levy increases will raise another $18 million. The average homeowner will pay $142 more as a result.
  • Total projected property tax haul in 2023: $714 million, up $25 million from from 2022. This is the result of the hike as well as new developments within the city.
  • Winnipeg Transit budget: $238 million, up $26 million from 2022. 
  • Police budget: $326 million, up $6 million from 2022.
  • Transit security: $5 million for new program
  • Fire-paramedic budget: $226 million, up $5 million from 2022. 
  • Road repair budget: $156 million, down $9 million from 2022.
  • North End transit garage reconstruction: $88 million toward a $200-million project.
  • CentrePort south water and sewer pipes: $40 million.
  • Electric bus purchases: $22 million.
  • St. Vital Bridge rehabilitation (Osborne to Dunkirk crossing): $16 million this year toward a $39-million project.
  • Chief Peguis Trail extension and Kenaston widening: $2.8 million toward planning.
  • Rainbow Stage renovation: $1.5 million this year toward a $3-million upgrade.
  • East of Red Recplex: $2 million this year.

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