CITY BUDGET TABLED TODAY The 2009 draft budget for the City of Winnipeg was made public this afternoon. I found the budget document unclear on many things and it will be a challenge to find out what kind of "devil" there is in the details! I have a few observations that are only a first reaction. One glaring flaw is the lack of fiscal sustainability and an excess of short term thinking. The projected deficit for 2010 is $56.5 million and for 2011 is $79 million. This year the budget was balanced by using $30 million in one-time money from reserves and other sources that may not be available next year. Last year the city relied on $62 million dollars of one-time money to balance the budget. Today the Mayor and EPC can present themselves as heroes for freezing taxes for another year. However, by avoiding facing reality and having minor incremental tax increases (the way all other Canadian cities do) we run the risk of being hit with either a major shocking increase or huge service cuts. It is a growing concern that whoever becomes Mayor after the next election in 2010 will inherit a financial mess! By refusing to consider even inflationary increases we continue down the path of significant staff reductions, ever increasing user fees, 20 years of the same amount of transit bus operating hours spread across a sprawling city and severe underinvestment in neighbourhood revitalization (housing). This approach is not only socially unsustainable it is also financially irresponsible. Today is the first day of the budget process and it will take time to determine what the implications of this budget really are. I look forward to hearing feedback from you and I encourage Winnipeggers to participate in the process. PROCESS INFO Unfortunately the Mayor's press release did not include information about how the public can participate in the budget process so I will share what information I have so far here. The budget document is available for viewing on the city web site at www.winnipeg.ca. If you wish to participate there are a number of public meetings that people can attend either to listen or to speak in delegation between now and March 24th. MEETING DETAILS Standing Policy committees will meet throughout the week of March 3 to 10th: Tuesday March 3rd: Property and Development Monday March 9th: Protection and Community Services Tuesday March 10th: Infrastructure and Public Works Wednesday March 11th: Executive Policy Committee (most important opportunity to speak to the Mayor and EPC) All meetings will take place at City Hall on the 2nd Floor at 510 Main St at 9:00 AM Council will vote on the budget at a Special Meeting on Tuesday March 24th at 9:30 AM. The new way to register for these meetings is to contact 311@winnipeg.ca or call 311. BUDGET FORUM TO BE HELD The Winnipeg Citizens' Coalition is organizing a forum to review and discuss the upcoming City of Winnipeg budget. Guest speakers will include Ian Hudson, Economist at the University of Manitoba and Lynne Fernandez from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Date: Thursday, February 26th, 2009 Time: 7 pm Location: Burton Cummings Community Centre - 960 Arlington Street Visit the web site at www.winnipegcitizenscoalition.com to view the Alternative City Budget and for other info. Thank you for your interest in Civic Issues! Cheers! Jenny Jenny Gerbasi Councillor Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry jgerbasi@winnipeg.ca