News / Winnipeg

Councillors, industry rep slam Winnipeg's 'shell game' roads budget

The trio argued the 2017 budget appears to funnel dedicated tax dollars away from road repairs into balancing the operating budget.

A pair of councillors and an industry representative blasted city hall’s plan to fix $105 million worth of roads in 2017 as a “shell game” and “not transparent."

Councillors Russ Wyatt, Ross Eadie and Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, all took turns criticizing the local and regional roads renewal program during Tuesday’s meeting of infrastructure renewal and public works committee.

The trio argued the 2017 budget appears to funnel dedicated tax dollars away from road repairs into balancing the operating budget.

Wyatt explained that back in 2013 and 2014, council established a local and regional road renewal reserve, where two per cent of property taxes would put towards fixing the city’s crumbling roads.

That means the amount of money city hall spends on road renewal should increase annually as property taxes rise, he added.

Wyatt argued that because next year’s budget earmarks $105 million for road repairs – the exact same amount as in 2016 – it demonstrates the additional revenue is being spent elsewhere.

“There is a shell game going on, and the program is being raided to balance the operating budget on the backs of the street renewal program that was promised to the citizens of Winnipeg,” Wyatt said on Tuesday.

If the program was being funded properly, he says the $10 million in additional tax revenue should be shown in the roads budget. 

“Once again, we have fallen into the same old trap that councils previously have fallen into – race to balance your operating budget and to heck with the infrastructure, let the future councillors and the future citizens of tomorrow have to worry about that,” said Wyatt.

Lorenc told the committee the city is out of line if it is in fact using the two per cent in dedicated property taxes for any other purpose than local and regional road repairs. 

“Change in this manner is not transparent, accountable nor open governance of public funds or public policy," he said on Tuesday.  

"It does not in our opinion discharge the test of open government.” 

Later in the day, committee chairperson Coun. Marty Morantz called Wyatt's comments "misleading."

He clarified some of revenue raised from property taxes is spent paying back the cash used to kick start the roads program in the first place.

Lester Deane, the public works director, also confirmed the two per cent in tax revenue is indeed counted in the roads budget. 

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