Who pays for budget increase?
Published Friday, February 8, 2008 6:48PM CST
Mayor Sam Katz has an optimistic message for Winnipeggers, but it comes with a warning for homeowners.
"This year's budget process will likely cause much debate," he said.
Katz delivered his state of the city address on Friday at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. It hit on infrastructure, crime and safety, and moving the city forward. But as the city tries to balance the books, several city councillors are talking about ending an 11-year property tax freeze.
Councillor Mike O'Shaughnessy, is Winnipeg's long-time chair of finance. He thinks the rate of Winnipeg's growth warrants a tax hike.
"Cost keep going up faster than our city is growing - faster than any city is growing," he says. "Calgary with all of its growth has had a five per cent increase in its taxes every year for the last half dozen years."
The city is at a point where less will be spent or services will be slashed.
"What we are trying to do is freeze the property tax," Katz told CTV News. "To do that and continue to increase services is much more difficult. There is no question we are facing major obstacles."
Some of the increasing expenses include rising construction costs and growing staff salaries. For example, the police pay roll has gone from $140 million to $160 million.
But a tax hike isn't the only option for revenue; other new ideas in the state of the city address include the creation of an independent water board. It would set water and sewer prices instead of City Hall. City councillors' expenses will also now be posted on line, and in detail, to add transparency to City Hall.