September 15, 2017 5:37 pm

City growth fees making more money than anticipated as city hall faces cash crunch

Jeremy Desrochers / Global News / File

When growth fees came into effect in May, the city estimated it would raise $1-million for the duration of 2017.

Yet by the end of August, the city had already made $1.4 million, according to the city’s chief financial officer.

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“Our initial projection was based on growth during the course of the year, in terms of what permits we expected to issue. Those can vary from year to year,” explained Mike Ruta at Friday’s finance committee meeting. “From the city’s perspective, this provides us the ability to use additional cash towards our capital projects at some future point. From that perspective, it’s good news.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg’s controversial growth fees kick in

That money is sitting in a reserve fund right now, but since the city is locked in a legal challenge with developers, it will sit there, unspent.

“I’m waiting to see what the results of the legal challenge are, I hope that’s determined sooner rather than later. It will ultimately determine whether the impact fee reserve can be accessed,” explained Councillor Scott Gillingham. “I’m certainly reluctant to see it spent before we see the outcome of the challenge.”

Cost of North End sewage upgrade keeps climbing

An upgrade to the North End Sewage Treatment Plant is going to cost a lot of money.

According to a report at the city’s finance committee, it could cost over $1-billion. That’s up from the previous estimate of $795-million.

Roughly four to six per cent of the nutrient load into Lake Winnipeg comes from the city, and the province wants that to go down.

“The City of Winnipeg is committed to doing our part to protect Lake Winnipeg,” said Gillingham. “To meet provincial requirements, we’re being called upon to not eliminate us as a source for nutrient load, but reduce it by two per cent, maybe cut it in half.”

READ MORE: “Lake Winnipeg is not dead”: expert on zebra mussels

The project is still in the preliminary design stage, which means the price tag could climb even higher or go down, but either way the project will lead to a rise in utility costs.

Transit contemplating cost-saving measures

Winnipeg Transit is facing a budget shortfall, one that could persist in the future.

Thanks to declining ridership and flat provincial funding, Transit is looking at ways to save money, including the reduction of services or a bigger than usual rate hike.

“My priority is to see transit services not decreased, and I am open to fare consideration,” opined Councillor Janice Lukes at the committee meeting. “If we’re moving towards a growing city, which we are, it’s crazy what’s happening in the south end, transit is critical in that.”

The city is still waiting to get clarity from the province about what kind of funding the city will receive as part of its 2018 budget.

Snow clearing costs overflow 

Winter isn’t that far away, but the city is still dealing with the cost of last winter.

The finance committee heard that Public Works is $2.6-million over its snow clearing budget.

READ MORE: Snow clearing crews cause 10K in damage to property, says St. James Village Biz

A report says that a lack of frost before the huge snow dump last December led to more damage caused by snow clearing efforts.

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