Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said creating a four-year balanced budget, something the city hasn't done before, isn't easy, but has many benefits for stakeholders and future council.
"Greater long-term planning, greater certainty for stakeholders," said Bowman, referring to the benefits of a multi-year budget.
"For instance, the grants we give out. You've got organizations now who will have funding certainty in terms of four years or much greater certainty."
The city tabled its budget for the next four years on Friday, March 6.
The mayor noted as a result of a four-year budget, the next council will inherit a balanced budget, something he wishes the previous council had given to him.
"I can tell you that would've been a much nicer gift from the previous council and mayor had it been waiting for me, then some of the files that we had to deal with," he said.
BUDGET CUTS AND GAINS
The proposed budget scales back in terms of library hours and the leisure guide. The city isn't proposing the closure of any city facilities but won't reopen any that are currently closed.
Bowman said council tried to be thoughtful in making targeted expenditure reductions.
"What we didn't want to do is do wholesale closures of pools and rec centre and libraries as the public service had recommended," he said.
Property taxes will be capped at a 2.33 per cent increase per year, with two per cent dedicated to rebuilding roads and 0.33 going to the Southwest Rapid Transitway. The mayor said keeping the cost of living down in Winnipeg is one of the reasons the city is so attractive to residents.
"Firstly, one of the reasons we're attracting so many people is it's a cost-effective and cost-affordable place for someone to raise their family. So keeping taxes at the 2.33 per cent is one in which we continue to welcome thousands upon thousands of new Canadians and new Winnipeggers each and every year, and that's the growth we want to continue to see," he said.
Bowman described transit as one of the "major winners" in the budget, which highlights a $13 million increase to the spine and feeder system and new jobs. A number of low-volume routes will see reduced service, with some losing service on weekends.
The mayor also noted the first-ever low-income bus pass, children under 12-year-old riding for free and an over 35 per cent increase over the next four years in tax-supported subsidies.
"The fact that city council is looking at balancing four years should give confidence in our responsibility on the fiscal front, but also the fact that we're making key targeted investments in things like transit," Bowman said.
"Those are really important to building a growing city. As our population grows the need for public transportation, what we're looking at is a net increase in transit operational hours, up to about 40,000 per year. There are nips and tucks to underperforming routes, but there's an overall lift the service.
THE IMPORTANCE OF TRANSPARENCY
Bowman pointed out that Winnipeggers and Manitobans don't know what recommendations the public service makes to the provincial cabinet or federal cabinet, and that the city has been open and transparent about the budget process.
"I think that openness and transparency allows more voices to be heard and more input, and that's a good thing," he said.
"If our greatest criticism of this process is that it's too open and too transparent, I'll take that over the alternative, which was decisions being made behind closed doors and then thrust upon people without ample notice."
Bowman said he's going to continue to work with council until the budget is passed. Council will vote on the preliminary budget on March 25.
-With files from CTV’s Rahim Ladhani, Danton Unger and Devon McKendrick.