Councillor Russ Wyatt, City of Winnipeg

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Mayor Bowman makes huge cuts to Road Renewal Program

Mayor Bowman makes huge cuts to Road Renewal Program

To say the recently announced City of Winnipeg Budget by Mayor Bowman is a set back to our Road Repair and Renewal program, would be stating it lightly.

If you are tired of the state of our roads, your street, lane or regional road you use regularly, things are now going to get a lot worse thanks to Mayor Bowman’s proposed budget.

In his 2017 budget, he is proposing to freeze funding levels to the 2016 level of $105 million. This sounds like a lot, but unfortunately when it costs nearly a million dollars to reconstruct a typical residential block, $105 million for both residential streets and all the regional streets doesn’t go that far. Plus construction inflation eats away at the buying power. Construction inflation, year to year, averages about 5%. That means the $105 million spent in 2016 will buy you less than $100 million of work in 2017! In other words the same money gets you less actual work.

To make matters worse, he is claiming that of the 2.33% property tax increase, 2% is going into the roads renewal program ( 1% property tax increase generates $5 million). Yet if this was actually true then the roads budget should go from $105 million in 2016 to $115 million in 2017. If you recall, Mayor Katz tried to make the same claim in 2011 when he jacked up frontage levy’s, claiming to put it into roads, only to claw back funds elsewhere. Mayor Bowman is now proposing to do exactly the same thing.

Back in 2013 Council approved a plan that would dedicate a 1% increase of property taxes toward fixing our residential streets. The following year, in 2014, we started to do the same for the Regional streets, dedicating another 1% property tax increase. By dedicating 2% new every year, and by doing this year after year, by 2022, we would have had a fund of $165 million to fix our roads. By 2036 the fund would have been $380 million! In other words we would have built our way out of the infrastructure deficit. It was a good and solid plan.

Instead of sticking to that plan, Mayor Bowman is still raising our taxes, but he is actually then cutting the base program. In other words: a shell game.

This means, according to Mayor Bowman’s own budget book released on November 22, he will cut a total $99 million out of our planned roads renewal program (see bar graph below) from 2017 to 2022!!

Clearly this Mayor and EPC, if or when they pass this budget, do not have the renewal of our crumbling streets as their top priority.