Mayor issues challenge |
WINNIPEG - JANUARY 23, 2003 - “I really need your help,” Mayor Glen Murray said today in his State of the City Address to more than 600 people attending a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
“On our current track, we (the City of Winnipeg) are not sustainable,” Murray said. “Can we pay our bills? Yes.
“Can we pay the costs of providing services at the level and quality currently desired? No. Not without a change in funding.”
In going forward, Murray said he wants to “contract” with citizens for a New Deal - to look at new forms or sources of revenue that will make the City sustainable.
There is currently too great a dependency on property tax, Murray said.
“We’re maxed out. There is no room for property tax increases,” he said, adding this is despite municipal taxes being among the lowest in the country.
Part of the problem is property values. Assessment has stayed flat, so there’s no growth in the City’s primary revenue source, he said.
The City’s share of total taxes paid by Winnipeggers is dropping. In 2001, it represented 6.8%, down from 7.8% in 1997.
However, Winnipeg has learned to be more cost-efficient in delivering its services.
“We now spend significantly less per capita on principal services (fire, police, roads, recreation, etc.) than Calgary and Edmonton,” the mayor said.
“In 2002, Edmonton spent 32% more and Calgary 16% more, which is a significant change from 1999, when Edmonton spent 19% more and Calgary 12% more.”
In the U.S., cities have turned to other revenue sources, he added, saying most U.S. cities, on average, rely on property taxes for only 21% of their revenue.
Phoenix, Ariz., however, generates only 6% of its revenues from property tax. A majority of its revenue (44%) is from local sales tax, followed by 27% for state-shared revenues and 23% for user fees and other resources.
Unlike Winnipeg - which puts its money into big projects, such as True North and the Pan Am Games, but doesn’t get a return on its investment - Phoenix benefits from such projects because of the sales tax.
A New Deal for cities must be on the drawing board, he said.
“Those countries with the strongest, most agile cities are going to be the most powerful.”
State of the City Address (pdf, 998kb)
* Top of Page