Bowman threatens to stop collecting school taxes – Winnipeg Free Press

Bowman threatens to stop collecting school taxes - Winnipeg Free Press
Bowman comes out against citys collection of school taxes
Mayor Brian Bowman after the province released its budget Mar. 7, telling reporters there was still a $40 million hole in roads funding.

The City of Winnipeg is set to pass its 2019 budget Wednesday, and with it comes a new stipulation that the City chase the Province for the $40 million shortfall in roads funding.

Winnipeg was set to see another record year of funding for roads this year, but slashed its plans by nearly $30 million after identifying the gap.

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Members of the city’s Executive Policy Committee meeting passed a recommendation Tuesday to go after the province for the money as part of the 2019 budget plans.

“There is a provision that council immediately call on the province to provide the outstanding $40 million to fulfill the final $50 million payment to the City of Winnipeg for the 2018 roads program, and to establish a go-forward commitment towards local road renewal for the city in 2019 and beyond,” Mayor Brian Bowman said.

Bowman referred to the 2014 commitment by the province to spend $250 million on Winnipeg’s roads over a five-year period, saying the City received just $10 million of the annual $50 million for the final year of the agreement — something the city says is backed up in written correspondence from the province.

The initial request to chase the province for the funds was made at a meeting of the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works by committee chair and St. Boniface councillor Matt Allard.

“To date, the province has not provided an itemized list of how they feel they’ve fulfilled the $250 million road commitment, nor have they advised when they reached this determination and why the City of Winnipeg wasn’t notified of this position until 2019,” Bowman said.

The mayor noted some councillors would have had the city take on more debt or hike property taxes to allow for increased spending on roads in the wake of the shortfall, but said he’s not prepared to do that.

“The recommendation that was provided when the budget was initially tabled is what is continuing to be what is recommended for council, and along with the continued advocacies … is an effort to try to get the provincial government to simply make good on that previous commitment.”

The city has been at odds with the province for months in advance of budget season, putting off the tabling of its 2019 budget to March instead of February after what it’s calling a lack of clarity from Premier Brian Pallister’s Progressive Conservatives regarding funding — including contribution levels for roads.

Mayor Brian Bowman says its time education taxes are removed from city property tax bills, citing that its confusing for some homeowners.

"I completely understand why folks would get a tax bill and just presume that this is a tax bill from the City of Winnipeg as a whole," said Bowman

Right now municipalities collect and remit the school taxes on behalf of school boards and the province. Bowman says he wants that practice to end.

The province is in the middle of an education review and the mayor wants the funding framework to be part of the study. If not, in one years time, Bowman says hell vote to stop collecting the school taxes and urge councillors to follow suit.

"Im indicating what Ill be doing next year, if this is before me Ill be voting against it," said Bowman

The end of school tax collection could actually cost Winnipeg taxpayers more. Manitoba law says the city can be charged interest if school taxes arent paid on time.

In a statement Manitoba Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen had this stern warning for Bowman: "The law is clear. Under the Public Schools Act, municipalities must collect the special levy. If the City of Winnipeg does not collect the special levy, it would be in violation of the law. With an ongoing independent Kindergarten to grade 12 education system review, the Province has no intention of changing the law at this time. It would be in the interest of the city to follow the law." 

West End homeowner Bruce Clayton says when his annual property tax bill comes its about $2,400 in total.

"Property taxes are about $1,200 hundred and the school taxes are about the same amount again," said Clayton.

Clayton says he knows school taxes make up part of his bill, but hes not sure everyone is educated on that point.

"Its possible they do not, if theyre not completely paying attention to whats going on because as I say I didnt know that until I owned a house," he said.

Clayton says if the tax bills came out separately people could see clearly what school boards are charging for education. But just like in the classroom, rules are rules.

"Well thats it, youre stuck with that because thats the way the law got written up," said Clayton.  

Right now municipalities collect and remit education property taxes to school divisions. Those taxes show up on municipal property tax bills. (File image).