The City of Winnipeg tabled its 2023 preliminary budget Wednesday afternoon.

The new preliminary budget, which focuses on better customer service, enhanced community safety, economic growth, and transportation capacity, completed the last year of the city's first-ever multi-year balanced budget cycle, which started in 2020.

“The pandemic has had a severe impact on City finances over the past three years,” said Mayor Scott Gillingham. “But now is the time to reinvest in priorities like transit capacity, road safety, tree planting and pruning, and better customer service so that together, we can build a stronger Winnipeg.”

If the budget is approved, the average homeowner will be hit was a 3.5% property increase.

As in previous years, 2% is dedicated to regional and local road renewal, and 0.33 % will finance the Southwest Rapid Transitway.

Property owners will also be hit with a frontage levy increase of $1.50 per frontage foot. This will generate almost $18 million for road work and active transportation investments. 

The business tax rate will remain at 4.84% –unchanged from 2022. However, with higher assessed values in 2023, the Preliminary 2023 Budget Update increases the threshold for the Small Business Tax Credit from $44,220 in 2022 to $47,500 in 2023, which will mean 55% of businesses will be eligible for 100% rebates.

The city's proposed financial plan also includes measures to improve services such as Winnipeg Transit and the 311 system.

The update proposes increasing the budget for 311 by 25% to improve service response times and $450,000 to begin the development of the Neighbourhood Action Teams concept.

Transit will see full restoration of pre-pandemic levels over 2023 and a $5 million investment to launch a major transit safety team initiative.

The preliminary budget also includes an increase in the investment in road renewals by $18.9 million over the 2022 forecast, including $8 million more for active transportation. It also invests $2.8 million to advance trade corridor upgrades through planning and design for the Chief Peguis extension and Route 90/Kenaston Boulevard expansion.

Improved safety and security are also top of mind, with the preliminary budget including $1.0 million for more 24/7 safe spaces for unsheltered and at-risk Winnipeggers, $250,000 in annual funding for the Downtown Community Safety Partnership, and $100,000 for Millennium Library security. Additional Millennium Library security costs may be added to the budget later, pending an ongoing security review.

As for economic development and growth, proposed investments include $488,000 for permanent permit staff and $2.0 million to maintain temporary staff to improve building permit processing. $150,000 will support action on the Municipal Service Delivery Agreement for Naawi-Oodena, and $60 million in funding will be used to service new industrial lands at CentrePort South. 

The update proposes investing $3.6 million in city funding to protect and renew Winnipeg’s tree canopy, above increased federal investments. This results in a total operating and capital investment in trees of $26.3 million in 2023 which is $4.7 million more than 2022.

The budget update also proposes restoring Winnipeg Arts Council grants to pre-pandemic levels, it invests $12.6 million to celebrate Winnipeg’s 150th anniversary by launching work on restoration of the former City Archives building at 380 William Avenue, and it includes $2 million to begin design work on a new East of the Red RecPlex.

The six-year capital plan of $3.1 billion is about $200 million more than in the 2022 budget. External debt in the six-year capital forecast remains well within the City’s self-imposed debt limits, and the City is projecting a consolidated budget surplus this year.

"With a new Council, this budget is an opportunity to build collaboration between all Councillors and our federal and provincial partners that will better serve our residents,” said Councillor Jeff Browaty, Chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Finance & Economic Development.

Council and the public will have 23 days to review the draft before committees consider potential amendments.

The Preliminary 2023 Budget Update will be reviewed at Standing Policy Committee meetings starting on March 3, with the final Council debate scheduled for March 22, 2023.