Citizen Budget 2009

Citizen Budget 2009Read: 2009 Citizen Budget Survey Summary

Think City`s third annual Citizen Budget survey results showed that Vancouver residents oppose Mayor Gregor Robertson's continued support of the previous council's plan to shift a greater share of the tax base from commercial taxpayers to residential homeowners. They also do not support tax increases beyond three per cent, a level that will require the city to tighten its belt and make targetted cuts in some areas.

"Residents we surveyed supported maintaining current spending levels for most city services while reducing spending on general administration and internal waste and mismanagement," said Think City board director Erica McCollum "The majority would also like to see an increase in civic grants given to community groups."

"In tough economic times, the tax shift is seen as an unfair burden on homeowners already facing a significant tax increase," added Think City board chair Neil Monckton. Monckton noted that opponents of the tax shift (45.6 per cent) outnumbered supporters (21.4 per cent) by more than two to one, while a large majority (64.5 per cent) wanted the city to look at alternative options to help small- and medium-sized businesses without shifting taxes from big business to residential property owners.

"The impact of the tax shift on making rental housing and home ownership less affordable for the vast majority of residents directly contradicts the priorities identified by Vancouverites in our survey," said Monckton. "City council clearly needs to look at the tax shift policy in the light of our survey's findings which reveal high levels of concern about housing affordability (74.2 per cent), homelessness and poverty (75.8 per cent) and transportation (73.9 per cent) as Vancouver's top three policy priorities."

On the question of tax increases, 21.7 per cent of those surveyed supported a zero per cent tax increase, 42.4 per cent supported a two to three per cent tax increase, and 35.9 per cent supported a four to six per cent tax increase. When participants were asked what, if any, additional tax increases they would accept for new or expanded services, 35.2 per cent said zero per cent increase, 19.6 per cent said one per cent increase, and 17.7 per cent said two per cent increase.

"Based on this research, Think City believes there is little public support for tax increases beyond the two or three per cent that is required to maintain most city services at or near current levels," said McCollum. "Belt-tightening at city hall, such as the hiring freeze, the ban on outside consultants, and cuts to wasteful spending will find considerable public support."

McCollum also noted that residents are aware of the challenges the city faces in trying to balance its budget. Almost three quarters (72.3 per cent) of participants believe senior levels of government must contribute more to the city's budget through transfers and revenue sharing, while 47.9 per cent believe the city should be given new taxation powers targetted at non-residents – to allow for measures such as a hotel room tax and a rental car tax.

The Think City Citizen Budget survey attracted 1,813 participants from March 3 to 27, 2009 online and offline, more than triple the number who participated in the City of Vancouver's own budget survey.

Click here for a complete summary of the Citizen Budget survey.