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'Difficulties ahead': Mayor raises concerns over next multi-year budget

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Winnipeggers are being told to expect tough decisions ahead as the city works on preparing the next multi-year balanced budget.

In a news release Wednesday, Mayor Scott Gillingham and Coun. Jeff Browaty, the chair of the finance committee, said as the 2024-2027 budget is completed, it is important to know there are financial pressures that need to be dealt with.

"Inflation has led to increased costs across the board, from infrastructure projects to basic services," Browaty said in the release.

Those tough decisions are being spurred on by four key factors according to the city – inflation, labour costs, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and tax comparisons and commitment to reasonable taxation.

"We understand the difficulties ahead and the impact of these decisions on our citizens," said Gillingham.

Looking at inflation, the city is saying police vehicles, snow clearing contracts, vehicle rental costs and chemicals for water treatment, to name a few, have all skyrocketed in price.

As well, the city points to new contracts for several groups, such as CUPE and MGEU, as "necessary but challenging commitments" for labour costs.

"While we value our workforce and their critical role in our city, the increase in labour costs adds an additional demand on our budget," said Browaty.

Gillingham also points out the city continues to deal with the financial impacts of COVID-19 - $240 million in unexpected costs during the pandemic.

"This has stretched our ability to invest in new projects without substantial financial implications," said Gillingham.

Lastly, the mayor pointed to a lower proposed property tax hike compared to other major hubs in the country, meaning less revenue coming into the city.

Gillingham has promised a 3.5 per cent increase, while other cities range from 9.7 per cent in Halifax to 6.04 per cent in Saskatoon.

"We remain committed to maintaining essential services and making strategic new investments, but we must also be realistic about our fiscal limitations."

No date has officially been set for when the multi-year budget will be shared.

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