The COVID-19 pandemic is truly a crisis unlike anything we have ever experienced, and it continues to impact our city, our way of life and our economy. To date there’s been no debate within Council, and no financial details provided for review and consideration. The community can’t afford to wait and see how this all plays out. Residents and business owners want assurances that their municipal leaders are focused on fiscal management. They want confidence that their municipal government will take action to ignite our economy when one crisis ends, and another begins. City Council and the Administration must take bold, decisive action to help sustain our city through this challenging and stressful time. As opposed to being told of actions in Council on Friday, we’re asking for council and administration to consider a number of bold steps to support residents and small business owners, as well as to set a proactive path which will allow our municipal economy to effectively rebound. Such bold steps can include: 1) Direct the Public Service to eliminate late payment (penalty and interest) charges for residential and non-residential property taxpayers until October 31, 2020. 2) Reverse the March 1, 2020 water and sewer rate increases to both residential and commercial until October 31, 2020. 3) Suspend the Business Tax from April 1 to October 31, 2020 for locally owned companies that have ceased operating in co-operation with Social Distancing principals. Companies with fewer than 100 FTE’s during regular operations would be eligible. 4) Offer grant funding in the total amount of $30,000 ($2,000 from each Councillor’s Community Incentive Grant Program) to any approved provider of breakfast programs for children (adhering to all health directives) in our at-risk neighbourhoods for the duration of the crisis. This is already being done in Ottawa. 5) Direct $500,000 of funding from Economic Development and Centre Venture to plan a local advertising campaign designed to encourage residents to visit local non-government funded businesses when the crisis restrictions conclude to launch our local economy. 6) Offer special grant funding, a total of $15,000 ($1,000 from every City Councillor’s Community Incentive Grant Program), to recognized organizations, following Manitoba Health directives, that offer programming for youth and children that otherwise have limited access. These recommendations are made with the full understanding that the above measures will impact Winnipeg financially. We would invite all members of Council to participate in the thorough review of the current budget and identify reductions or eliminations. We believe there is the potential of $65 million in adjustments that could be made to mitigate the financial risks with anticipated loss of revenues and unplanned expenses.
Below are a few examples that would saving taxpayers significant money. Each reduction would require scheduled reviews on a monthly basis as we navigate the pandemic and financial fallout. 1) Immediately suspend all non-essential spending at the City of Winnipeg. Immediately freeze all non-union salaries at the 2019 levels and implement a hiring freeze throughout the city. 2) The City of Winnipeg should immediately eliminate all capital expenditures, except for safety-related or business essential items. 3) Immediately place a 12-month suspension on contract approvals for improvements to St. Boniface Pool and the St. James Civic Centre. 4) Suspend all purchases planned by Fleet Management for 2020 (to be reviewed for the 2021 budget). 5) Direct Transit to implement Sunday scheduling effective immediately, and to continue until the physical distancing restrictions have been lifted by the Province of Manitoba. 6) Suspend the opening of the Southwest Rapid Transit Corridor, given the University of Manitoba is effectively closed and passenger volumes along the Pembina strip will be low. Savings would be derived from no additional service and maintenance costs (including shelter cleaning) during this time. 7) Suspend the spending of Federal Gas Tax funds for 2020 in the area of additional Transit Bus purchases. 8) Suspend the spending of Federal Gas Tax funds for 2020 in the area of Pedestrian & Cycling Programs. 9) Cancellation of projects that incur debt, not including roads and bridges, until a review can be completed in the 2021 budget preparations. 10) Reduce the budget for non-essential departments by 10% immediately. All decisions should be carefully considered, discussed and debated amongst all members of Council. They are representatives of each corner of Winnipeg; the participation of all is critical to getting through this “together” as one city.
Keep Safe & Healthy.