Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has unveiled on Nov. 22 a new $1.08 billion city budget that increases spending on road renewals, while slashing overall funding for infrastructure development.
The city plans to spend a record amount of $116 million on rebuilding roads. All of it will also go to a single project, the rehabilitation of Empress St. between St. Matthews Ave. and Portage Ave.
The proposed amount reflects an $11-million increase from 2017’s spending. It will be sourced from a property tax hike proposed for 2018. Additionally, the reduced allocation for overall infrastructure spending also allows the city to rein in spending for road renewals.
The tax-supported portion of the city’s budget, which is used to pay for new roads and bridges, major repairs and equipment purchases, will drop by $74 million. In 2018, Winnipeg plans to spend only $246 million.
Moreover, the amount of actual cash the city plans to appropriate to overall infrastructure spending is down from 2017’s budget of $31 million, to $23 million.
This is the second consecutive year the city has reduced its proposed infrastructure funding, which has been down by about a third since 2016. This dramatic dip is taking place when borrowing costs are low, and according to city finance officials, it presents a future risk as borrowing costs are expected to increase.
The new city budget elicited mixed reactions from different sectors. According to CBC News, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce president Loren Remillard commended the city for reining in spending, while Manitoba Heavy Construction Association president Chris Lorenc said he approves of the spending for road rehabilitation.