City of Winnipeg passes 2019 budget with minimal road money — for now

Mayor Brian Bowman speaks to media after the tabling of the city's 2019 budget. Amber McGuckin/Global News

Winnipeg’s 2019 budget is official — and as it stands, there will be minimal roadwork on local streets this year.

Councillors passed the city’s operating and capital budgets by a vote of 11 to 5 Wednesday afternoon.

As had been the case for weeks, the big talking point was roads.

The city said the province left a $40 million gap in funding by failing to fulfill the fifth year of its $250 million, five-year roads funding agreement in 2018.

READ MORE: Winnipeg holds taxes at 2.33 per cent, lowers road spending by $29M

Councillors Ross Eadie and Jason Schreyer put forward a motion that would have had the city take on $10 million of debt to make up part of the difference, which was voted down 13 to 3.

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Other members of council would have had the city cut other costs.

“If we just took $20 million to do local road improvements — that’s less than two per cent of our overall budget,” Coun. Kevin Klein said.

“You can’t tell me that any intelligent individual couldn’t sit down with the budget and find two per cent in savings to continue to working on our core services.”

As passed, there is nearly $30 million less in the budget for roads compared to last year.

READ MORE: Front street in bad shape? It won’t get fixed until at least next year, says Winnipeg engineer

But Tuesday’s federal budget included a doubling of gas tax money — which means Winnipeg stands to get an extra $40 million in 2019.

“When I heard the number, there may have been some language I won’t use here,” Mayor Brian Bowman said. “Like — you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Depending on when the federal budget passes, it will be up to council to decide what to do with that money — but Bowman would like to see it come quickly and go to roads.

“If we get into May, June, it’s going to severely restrict — if not limit outright — our ability to invest in roads for this season.”

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READ MORE: Winnipeg set to chase the Province for missing roads money

Bowman said despite the potential to use gas tax money for roads, the city still plans to chase the province for clarity on the missing $40 million from last year’s agreement, and sort out what roads funding agreements will look like in the coming years.

Councillors also voted 12 to 4 to allow bridges to be funded from the local and regional roads reserve, with the potential to allow projects like the Louise Bridge or Arlington Bridge to use money from that source.

The passing of the budget also means a 2.33 per cent property tax hike is official, and no new taxes or fees are being imposed.

Transit fare and parking fees are also holding steady for 2019.

WATCH: Winnipeg budget bumps taxes by 2.33 per cent, drops road spending

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg holds taxes at 2.33 per cent, lowers road spending by $29M' Winnipeg holds taxes at 2.33 per cent, lowers road spending by $29M
Winnipeg holds taxes at 2.33 per cent, lowers road spending by $29M – Mar 1, 2019

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