Citizen Budget 2011

Citizen BudgetRead Up: 2011 Citizen Budget Survey Summary

From Oct. 27 to Dec. 1, Think City conducted its fifth annual Citizen Budget survey. In all, 1,758 people completed this year's online survey.

Think City presented the results of the survey to city council at the Dec. 2 final public hearing on the annual operating budget.  

The survey found the majority of respondents want to maintain or even increase funding for libraries, parks and recreation, community services, fire and rescue, civic grants and utilities. As in past Citizen Budget surveys a significant minority want more cuts to administrative services and policing – signaling the city's need to exercise some belt tightening in response to the tougher economic times.

When it comes to property taxes, the majority of respondents were in favor of a two to four per cent tax increase, suggesting some modest service cuts were acceptable to them.

However, in terms of tax fairness, support for the tax holiday for commercial property owners was rejected four to one. By the end of 2011, city council will have shifted $51-million from commercial property owners to residential property owners, over the four years the shift has been in place.

Think City offered city council two options for consideration at the Dec. 2 public hearing:

Option 1 - Restore Tax Fairness and Raise Taxes to Avoid Cuts: Council should defer the commercial property tax break and raise property taxes across the board for both homeowners and commercial property owners by the rate of inflation (three per cent).

The multi-million dollar tax shift is undermining city hall's ability to pay for services the majority of residents and businesses say they want protected.

Option 2 - Make Cuts Balanced and Fair: If the first option is rejected, council should spread the proposed $13.4-million in cuts more equally across all city departments.

Libraries, parks and recreation, and community services are taking a disproportionate share of cuts by shouldering budget reductions that are up to five times higher than the rate of reduction being made to other city departments. Nearly 38 per cent of the proposed $13.4 million in cuts to the 2011 Vancouver operating budget are to these three departments even though they account for only 21 per cent of the city's annual operating budget.

To make these cuts more balanced and fair, the city should compare departmental reductions both within 2011 and over the past two budget cycles, recognizing there have been substantial cuts made to services since 2008.

Other Highlights from the Citizen Budget Survey

  • 41.3 per cent support a mixture of service cuts and tax Increases, 40.0 per cent oppose any service cuts and 18.8 per cent oppose any tax increases.
  • Libraries, civic grants, utilities, fire and rescue, community and cultural services, and parks and recreation topped the list of citizen priorities, ranging from 82 per cent to 93 per cent support for maintaining or expanding these services. Reductions in funding for police (35.4 per cent) and general administration (44.2 per cent) were supported by a significant minority of respondents.
  • Dropping the tax shift was supported four to one. Nearly two-thirds of respondents want the city to look into other options for small business tax relief.
  • 48.1 per cent were unaware of the various ways to participate in the city's budget consultation process.