“The longer the pandemic goes on, the deeper the financial impact on the City of Winnipeg,” said committee Chairman Coun. Scott Gillingham (St. James) in a phone interview. “We were in a strong financial position going into the pandemic. We put the multi-year budget in place and the cash flow management plan in place. Those have been very important tools to help us through the pandemic so far. As the pandemic goes on, it’s more pressure on our financial stabilization reserve. I’m hoping that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I’m hopeful that by spring and summer we can be in a different place as a community when it comes to the pandemic.”
No matter what happens, explained Gillingham, the City will have to carefully manage its finances going forward. He has asked the public service for an update on the crisis cash flow management plan so the committee can determine what financial levers can be pulled to move the Winnipeg beyond the pandemic.
The City’s Finance Committee has approved a $2.22 million overspend at the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service mostly to cover 2021 overtime costs related to the Omicron wave of COVID-19. The funds will also cover training new recruits and other salary matters.
A report by the public service said in November 2021 the Finance Committee approved the Fire Paramedic Service request for over-expenditure against its budget approval relating to the fire service of $3.38 million based on an August forecast. The department is now completing year-end financials and has identified the need for an additional $2.22 million, giving a total over-expenditure of $5.6 million for 2021. The City’s rainy-day fund will be used to cover the over-expenditure.
On another front, Gillingham said Transit lost $54.2 million in 2021 due to low ridership during the pandemic. The loss, he explained, constitutes a significant part of the City budget.
“It’s a very big hit to Transit revenues,” he said. “We have called for Transit to bring a verbal report next month on their strategy to get people back on the bus by the time spring and summer rolls around.”
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