Budget survey results analyzed

Castlegar Source
By Castlegar Source
April 7th, 2010

Castlegar city council heard, at its regular meeting Tuesday night, a staff synapsis of the results of a budget survey distributed through local media to get public input on the 2010 budget and five-year financial plan.

Only 125 people responded by completing the survey, but councillor Kevin Chernoff said that, while those numbers are not necessarily statisically significant and likely don’t represent the overall population, he intends to take the resulting commentary very much to heart.

“If people step up and offer feedback, they’re going to be heard – because theyre the only ones talking,” he said. “It’s a little disheartening when only two people show up to budget meetings that we advertised like we’ve never advertised before.

“So when someone takes the time to fill out a survey, I appreciate it – all of council does.”

In a report to council, city manager John Malcolm said, of the 125 responses, 54 were submitted by mail and rest were completed online. Malcolm capsulized the responses as follows:

The first question asked, please rate the importance of each of the following city services (then a list followed):

“Although all services received support, the top five services were the airport, fire services, domestic water supply, police services and sanitary sewer. The lowest services to receive resident support included tax exemptions for various organizations, grants to community groups and cultural and heritage services,” Malcolm said. 

Question two was, please rate these city services according to how important it is to maintain them at current levels:

“Generally residents followed their interest from question one,” he said, “where fire and police services, provision of water and the airport rated highest. Again, maintaining tax exemptions for organizations, grants, cultural and heritage services, community events, tourism promotion and walking trails attracted the least support. “

Question three asked, please rate the following city services according to which should be reduced:

“Survey respondents continued to be consistent in their support for ‘core services’,  with correspondingly low support for discretionary areas or non-core services. Accordingly, the airport, fire, police and water all attracted over 80 per cent in not reducing support. In terms of reducing or eliminating city services, the following services all attracted over 50-per-cent support to reduce: cultural and heritage services (61.2 per cent for reduction or elimination), sidewalk maintenance (reduce service somewhat), tourism promotion, community events, grants, playing fields, land-use planning and tax exemptions for various organizations.”

Question four was, how much of a tax increase would you be willing to incur so the city could provide the following services?

“A majority of all respondents basically indicated that they were not willing to incur additional taxes to support increased service levels in nine areas of activity,” Malcolm said. 

Question five said the city has been working to reduce its dependence on major industry taxation. This includes shifting taxes to other tax classes (commercial, residential). Should the city continue to reduce major industry taxation?

“Basically, respondents were against additional tax shifting, although the difference was not that strong (56 per cent against and 39 per cent for).”

Question six asked  which direction would respondents like city council to take over the next year?

“The large majority of respondents (69.7per cent) wished the city to maintain existing city services, with 19 per cent seeking improved services and 9.2 per cent seeking to reduce service levels. “

The final question was more open-ended, asking what are the three most important issues facing the City of Castlegar?

Malcolm said this question garnered a wide range of disparate responses, some of which included developing local eco-tourism, a lack of youth services and an unreliable airport, not to mention needing an alternate route through Castlegar to diminish congestion and improving local transit.

The list literally goes on for four pages, in point form (for more information, contact city hall at 250-365-7227).

Chernoff said last night’s third reading of the proposed 2010 budget is not final – there will be opportunity to make changes up to council’s final reading and adoption of the fiscal plan.

Councillor Deb McInotsh again voted against the budget last night.

“Nothing has changed in the budget that would make me change my mind,” she said.


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