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City deficit 'a little on the large side': councillor

Winnipeg city hall
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The City of Winnipeg is facing a projected $39.3 million deficit for the end of the year.

“…A little on the large side,” said Coun. Jeff Browaty, finance committee chair

A first-quarter report attributes the shortfall to cost overruns in emergency services, snow and ice clearing, and a decrease in building permit revenue.

The report says the property department’s regulation fee revenue is down by $8.4 million, in part because of a drop in the number and value of building permits, due to high interest rates.

The snow and ice clearing budget is anticipated to be over by $10.5 million, blamed on a “significant” number of “snow events” in January.

The report says the Winnipeg Police Service deficit is offset with additional revenue leaving a projected shortfall of only $4.5 million. The shortfall is mainly due to the department not achieving expenditure management targets included in the 2024 budget.

But the biggest overrun comes in the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service budget at $12.7 million due to injury claims and overtime.

Browaty is questioning the staffing levels on the fire side.

“I still have issues considering what’s happening over at the fire and paramedic service.”

Browaty says the fire service has 1.3 staff that needs to be filled on any given shift. He says the city must have 167 fire fighters on shift but 215 are scheduled in case of sick time, vacations, and training.

“That’s 48 extra employees,” said Browarty. “So I really want to know what they’re doing to better schedule for holidays, for sickness, and even training.” Said Browaty United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg President Tom Bilous says the ratio is actually 1.29, and argues it needs to be bumped up, not down to curb overtime costs.

“If you increase the ratio, more people on per shift, less overtime,” said Bilious.

He says on top of vacations, training and regular sick time, more fire fighters are off with long-term mental health injuries, so new fire fighters are needed. Billous knows that comes at a cost too.

“Raise taxes,” said Bilous. “You have a bag of money I get it, but the thing is we have not kept up with our population growth.”

The finance report says if need be, the city’s rainy day fund could be used to cover off $31.7 of the deficit, leaving $7.6 million. It says an action plan is coming next month to the finance committee to address the remaining shortfall. 

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