$3 Million COVID-19 Economic Support Grant Program will provide assistance to businesses and not-for-profit organizations

City of Winnipeg preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update tabled at Executive Policy Committee

Budget update sticks to the plan adopted in March and focuses the City’s response to the global pandemic while making important investments in community services and infrastructure renewal

Released: 2:04 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – Today, the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update for the City of Winnipeg was tabled at a special Executive Policy Committee (EPC) meeting. The 2021 City of Winnipeg Budget will update the historic multi-year balanced budget adopted earlier this year.

“When Council adopted the 2020-2023 multi-year balanced budget earlier this year, the challenges due to the global pandemic were just starting,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “The pandemic continues to have a tremendous impact on residents, businesses, organizations, and government. The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update sticks to the plan adopted in March and prioritizes the pandemic-related challenges faced by the City while making significant investments into community services and infrastructure renewal that will help power our economy.”

The total tax-supported budget shortfall to be addressed in the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update is $83.6 million over the next three years:

Net Transit shortfall due to COVID-19 $28.5 million
Other costs due to COVID-19 $14.0 million
Additional costs $10.4 million
Winnipeg Police Pension Plan shortfall $30.7 million
  $83.6 million

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update includes the following measures to fully offset the $83.6 million budget shortfall noted above, and keep the 2021-2023 tax-supported budgets in balance:

Leverage provincial capital commitment to invest in City capital projects $30 million
Replace cash to capital with external debt $10 million
Savings from a recently negotiated collective agreement with the Winnipeg Association of Public Service Officers (WAPSO) $12 million
Adjustment to the estimated amounts for future labor settlements $16.3 million
Projected savings in the Winnipeg Police Service budget to be determined by the Winnipeg Police Service $15.3 million
$83.6 million

“The City is better positioned today than many other cities as a result of the difficult decisions made during the multi-year balanced budget process adopted earlier this year,” said Scott Gillingham, Chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Finance. “The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update provides a prudent plan for financial stability as the City continues its response to the ongoing global pandemic.”

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update includes Winnipeg’s share of the federal Safe Restart Agreement of $42.2 million for COVID-19 operating costs, and $32.3 million for transit, allocated as follows:

  • $31.3 million to keep the 2020 budget in balance by reversing some of the levers in the COVID-19 Crisis Cash Flow Management Strategy, and replace lost parking revenue resulting from the pandemic
  • $32.3 million to offset 2020 operating losses in transit
  • $7.6 million to ease the burden of the pandemic
  • $3.3 million to support affordable housing and our economy

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update outlines the City’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in three main ways:

  1. Keeping People Safe – approximately $4.0 million investment from General City Revenues including:
    • Purchase of personal protective equipment for our front-line workers as well as additional cleaning, sanitizing, and related supplies in Winnipeg Transit, Community Services, Winnipeg Police Service, and other departments to help keep employees and users of City facilities and vehicles safe.
  2. Easing the economic, social and emotional burden of the pandemic – $7.6 million from the federal Safe Restart Agreement funding:
    • $3.8 million to extend the property and business tax deferral program in 2021
    • $3 million to support a grant program for small businesses and not-for-profits that are required by the provincial government to temporarily cease operations or close their physical locations to the public as a result of the pandemic
    • $600,000 to provide grants to community organizations in support of initiatives for our residents to connect with one another in ways permitted under provincial public health orders
    • $250,000 to support counselling and other supports for our paramedics and firefighters to help cope with the trauma and emotional stress of the pandemic
  3. Supporting affordable housing and our economy – $3.3 million from the federal Safe Restart Agreement funding:  
    • $2 million to provide grants to developers of affordable housing; these funds, together with others such as tax increment financing (subject to Council approval), will leverage funds from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to support construction of affordable housing in Winnipeg
    • $750,000 to support additional planning staff with a focus on growing the assessment base by supporting residential permit volume increases, added focus on the pre-application process, and reviewing existing and/or develop secondary plans to guide new development
    • $500,000 to re-establish the Office of Economic Development (OED) within the City of Winnipeg, to support local businesses doing business with the City during and after the economic recovery. The OED will work with external stakeholders and will complement the work of Economic Development Winnipeg to support new, major economic development opportunities and will help prioritize infrastructure investments that support economic growth

Community Services was identified in public engagement for the budget as Winnipeggers’ number one budget priority. Council listened and opted not to close City facilities, as had been recommended in last year’s multi-year balanced budget process. The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update includes millions of dollars in investments toward the facilities residents depend on. The Recreation and Libraries Investments Plan includes $50 million for multi-use indoor pool building renewal projects, recreation centres and their maintenance, as well as arena projects and library projects.

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update proposes a six-year, $2.3 billion capital investment plan to renew existing City assets and build new assets that will be required as our city grows towards one million people. Investments in capital infrastructure are one of the most important tools available to government in support of businesses and jobs for local residents, especially during times of uncertainty. This will include investments in road renewals, Winnipeg Transit buses, the Combined Sewer Overflow Mitigation Program, a Water Meter Renewal Program, and the protection and enhancement of our tree canopy.

It is estimated that the proposed six-year $2.3 billion capital investment plan will boost GDP by over $1 billion in Manitoba and across Canada, create over 10,000 person years of employment while generating incremental tax revenue to the provincial government of $111 million, and $139.2 million to the federal government.

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update invests a historic $152.2 million into road renewals which represents a $21.9 million increase from the $130.3 million in 2020. This level of projected investment for 2021 would result in approximately 140 lane kilometers of road and back lane renewals, which is approximately the distance from Winnipeg to Falcon Lake. This is part of a larger, 6-year investment of $864.1 million in road renewals, and represents close to 40 percent of the City’s entire capital campaign. The 6-year, $864.1 million investment into road renewals would result in approximately 800 lane kilometers of road and back lane renewals, which is approximately the distance from Winnipeg to Thompson

The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update continues to cap property tax increases at 2.33 percent per year for the next three years, with the entire increase dedicated to investment in Winnipeg’s infrastructure requirements. This means the average homeowner will pay an additional $42.34 on their property taxes in 2021.

The Small Business Tax Credit threshold has increased from $35,700 to $44,200, which eliminates this tax for almost 1,000 more businesses, saving them an average of $1,926.12 annually. Approximately 55 percent of all Winnipeg businesses will now receive a full credit of their business taxes in 2021. The business tax rate will remain frozen at 4.84 percent for 2021.

The Winnipeg Police Service budget will increase by approximately 2 percent annually before capital expenditures, from $294.5 million in 2020 to $312.4 million in 2023.

The protection and enhancement of our tree canopy will benefit from $29.2 million in capital investment over the next 6 years.

“The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update strikes the right balance to manage our way through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic while presenting a sustainable fiscal blueprint to support a growing city,” said Bowman.
 
The preliminary 2021 Operating and Capital Budget Updates will be discussed at Standing Policy Committee and Winnipeg Police Board meetings over the next two weeks, with Council voting on the preliminary 2021 Operating and Capital Budget Updates at a special meeting of Council on December 16, 2020.

Significant investment into trees added to the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update

Released: 2:10 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update adds $3 million of operating funding to the $37 million budgeted for trees in the multi-year balanced budgets adopted in March for a total of $40 million over the next three years.

“This budget confirms Council’s commitment to trees with an additional investment of $3 million to address the damage from the October 2019 storm,” said John Orlikow, Deputy Mayor. “Trees are a big part of what makes Winnipeg beautiful and they contribute to the character of our community. Working together and continued investment in trees will make sure our urban forest is here today and for generations to come.”

Along with the One Million Tree Challenge launched in 2019 by Mayor Brian Bowman, the City has put substantial efforts and funding into tree planting, tree pruning and removal, and disease control. Winnipeg’s tree canopy is a source of pride for Winnipeggers and the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget update acknowledges the importance of trees to our community.

The additional $3 million investment as part of the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update builds on the investment of $29.2 million in the six-year $2.3 billion Capital Investment Plan. To face threats like Dutch Elm Disease and the Emerald Ash Borer, and to respond to the devastation of the October 2019 storm, proactive action is required through strong urban forestry management.

In 2021, the Winnipeg Urban Forest Strategy will be coming forward for Council consideration, and will provide a 20-year vision for our city’s tree canopy and develop policy, recommendations, and strategic actions to help protect, preserve, and grow the canopy well into the future. It will provide direction for all of Winnipeg’s urban forest, which includes vegetation, trees, soil, and associated natural processes across both public and private lands.

The City appreciates the strong partnership with Trees Canada and Trees Winnipeg as we work together on the One Million Tree Challenge, which aims to plant one million trees on both public and private property before Winnipeg’s population reaches one million residents.

The One Million Tree Challenge would not be possible without support from the private sector and not-for-profit community. To date, more than $1.25 million in donations has been received for the Challenge from partners like CN and Telpay, as well as numerous individual Winnipeg residents. Funds from CN and Telpay have been used for multiple tree planting and distribution events despite COVID-19 hampering the ability to host large community planting events. With CN donations, the City was able to plant 2,000 trees at Mazenod Park in Transcona, and has other plantings planned. Telpay hosted multiple tree giveaway events for residents this summer and looks to ramp up its involvement next year.

For more information on the One Million Tree Challenge, please visit: winnipeg.ca/milliontrees.

Capital investment plan will help power Winnipeg’s economy for the next six years

Released: 2:14 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update proposes a six-year, $2.3 billion capital investment plan to renew existing City assets and build the new assets required as our city grows towards one million people.

Investments in capital infrastructure are critical to support a modern growing city, and they are also one of the most important tools available to government in support of businesses and jobs for local residents, especially during times of economic uncertainty.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever for governments to continue investing in capital infrastructure to help create jobs and drive the economy,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “The $2.3 billion capital investment plan lays out the City’s infrastructure spending priorities in an open and transparent way, unparalleled by any other level of government that Winnipeggers pay taxes to.”

It is estimated that the proposed six-year $2.3 billion capital investment plan will boost GDP by over $1 billion in Manitoba and across Canada, create over 10,000 person years of employment while generating incremental tax revenue to the provincial government of $111 million, and $139.2 million to the federal government.

Highlights of this investment plan include:

  • $864.1 million investment in road renewals, including a record $152.1 million investment in 2021
  • $131.8 million for the purchase of 25 new Winnipeg Transit buses
  • $180 million to continue the City’s investment in the Combined Sewer Overflow Mitigation Program
  • $39 million for a Water Meter Renewal Program
  • $60 million for a new Southwest sewer interceptor
  • $32.1 million investment in the renewal and replacement of infrastructure at Assiniboine Park
  • $29.2 million investment in the protection and enhancement of our tree canopy

The six-year capital program will be primarily financed through federal and provincial capital grants of $525.4 million, cash to capital of $79.5 million, $60 million from frontage levies revenue, and external debt of $210.2 million. The external debt of $210.2 million for the new capital investment over the next six years is a decrease of $18.5 million from the six-year forecast last year of $228.7 million, and still well within the City’s self-imposed debt limits.

“With the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is encouraging to know this infrastructure funding plan will be there to support jobs and the economy, long after the pandemic has ended,” said Scott Gillingham, Chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Finance.

$3 Million COVID-19 Economic Support Grant Program will provide assistance to businesses and not-for-profit organizations

Released: 2:18 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – A $3 million grant program is being proposed as part of the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update to assist Winnipeg small businesses and not-for-profit organizations ordered to temporarily cease operations or close their physically accessible locations by the provincial government’s public health orders that took effect on November 12, 2020. The program will be funded from the federal government’s Safe Restart Agreement.

“While the City of Winnipeg has limited capacity to directly support businesses and not-for-profits, this grant program will provide some financial assistance in addition to the other measures the City has already brought forward,” said Mayor Brian Bowman.

A non-repayable grant of a maximum $1,500 per organization will be available to businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have fewer than 100 employees. The grant can be used for rent, utilities, wages, personal protective equipment, sanitizing equipment, or other costs required as part of operations in the pandemic. Funds will be provided on a first come, first served basis until the $3 million is fully expended.

An application form will be developed that will require applicants to attest to the specific costs that will be covered by the grant. By accepting the grant, organizations will consent to having their expenses displayed in a final report that will be made public for Council’s review.

The deadline for applications will be February 28, 2021. The City may consider a subsequent intake if the $3 million is not fully subscribed to by the deadline.

The program will not be available to organizations that are related to the Government of Canada, Government of Manitoba, or City of Winnipeg, businesses and other organizations with 100 or more employees, or businesses and organizations that did not have to cease their operations or close their publicly accessible physical locations under the most recent public health orders.

“Many small businesses and non-profits have seen their revenues drastically reduced because of COVID-19 restrictions,” said Scott Gillingham, Chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Finance. “These businesses and non-profits are strapped for cash and need help. The economic support grants will assist eligible small businesses and non-profits in this difficult time.”

Almost 1,000 more businesses will no longer pay business taxes as part of the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update

Released: 2:20 p.m.

Winnipeg, MB – The preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update proposes to raise the Small Business Tax Credit threshold from $35,700 to $44,200, which would eliminate the Small Business Tax for almost 1,000 more businesses in 2021, saving these businesses an average of $1,926.12 in 2021 and beyond.

“Aside from the devastating impacts to health in our community, there is no doubt that small businesses have been some of the hardest hit from a financial perspective during the pandemic,” said Mayor Brian Bowman. “The City took action to defer taxes for residents and businesses facing financial difficulty as a result of the provincial public health restrictions, and exempting nearly one thousand more businesses from paying the business tax is another way the City can help today and long after the pandemic concludes.”

This measure would mean that approximately 55 percent of all businesses would receive a full credit of their business taxes in 2021. The business tax rate would also remain frozen at 4.84 percent for 2021.

This builds on other measures taken to support businesses in the preliminary 2021 Balanced Budget Update, including the $3 million COVID-19 Economic Support Grant Program for small businesses and not-for-profits that are required by the Provincial Government to temporarily cease operations or close their physical locations to the public as a result of the pandemic, and $3.78 million to support a deferral of property and business taxes in 2021.

This also builds on other supportive actions taken by the City during the pandemic to help ease the burden on businesses, such as deferred residential and business taxes announced on April 3, 2020, a flexible temporary patio permitting program, offering one-hour complimentary parking at all metered locations throughout Winnipeg, and adding temporary 15-minute loading zones in various locations throughout the Downtown and the Exchange District to benefit local businesses.

“Many small businesses have been hurt by COVID-19 restrictions and need financial relief,” said Scott Gillingham, Chairperson of the Standing Policy Committee on Finance. “The City is working within its limited resources and balanced budget framework to help the small business sector during this time of uncertainty.”

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