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Funding reduction sends City into reserves for road dollars

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A change in provincial funding has forced the City of Dauphin to make alternate arrangements in order to complete this summer’s construction plans.
Traditionally the city has received $225,000 a year, for the last number of years, under the Municipal Road Improvement Program. This year it dropped to $107,000.
City manager Brad Collett said the city was advised the program was under review, but administration believed changes would come in 2019.
“We did not think we would get scaled back this year though, so it was quite a surprise. We had budgetted for the full $225,000 and so, because we only got $107,000, we had to make up the difference from our Federal Gas Tax Reserve,” he said, adding Dauphin is better off than some municipalities he has had contact with.
“I know of multiple other municipalities that had already awarded the tenders and didn’t have the money. And that has caused some serious budgetary concerns with them.”
The funding is based on population and larger communities such as Steinbach and Brandon were used to getting $400,000 annually through the program.
“Those are very substantial amounts of money,” Collett said.
“If you put that into paving, for example, every year, that is a substantial amount of paving. Which either isn’t going to get done or it is going to have to be funded in another way. Which means your taxpayer.”
That is not the case in Dauphin, however, as proper planning and fiscal prudence has put the community on solid financial footing.
“We are lucky because we have been fairly frugal with our Federal Gas Tax Reserve and so we have some money in that reserve that we can tap, to get some paving, in addition to our normal paving budget. We can do more because of that, but this is something a new council is going to have to look at for sure.”
While there has been no official word, Collett said indications coming from the province are the Municipal Road Improvement Program will be eliminated completely and funding will be rolled into the single basket funding which municipalities receive.
“Which simply means that we lose the money,” he added.
The situation has spurred the City of Selkirk to spearhead a campaign among all urban and many large rural municipalities to pass an emergency resolution at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities conference in November, lobbying the Province of Manitoba to keep the funding in place.
“This will certainly be a hot topic at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities and hopefully the government listens,” Collett said.
“Hopefully the decision is reconsidered, because the number of municipalities that are passing resolutions to lobby the government at AMM is fairly substantial.”
Until then, however, Collett assures Dauphinites it is business as usual in the city.
“It is full steam ahead. Everything that was budgetted will be done,” he said.
The AMM’s 20th Annual Convention takes place, Nov. 26 to 28, at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg.