Local Prosperity: Appendix A – Think City Survey

i. Survey Methodology

Think City undertook this project with the assistance of an advisory committee that included our key partners, including Simon Fraser University’s Public Policy Program and CUPE BC. This group helped to develop the survey questions and provided advice on survey methodology. During the fall of 2009, Think City assembled a contact list of mayors, councillors, and senior city staff for all local governments in the province.

The survey was created using Survey Monkey, a widely used survey website. In November of 2009, a description of the survey, its purpose, and a secure link to the survey were distributed by email to mayors, councillors, and senior city staff in every local government in British Columbia.

Three follow up emails were sent over the next three months to encourage as much participation from local government officials as possible. After three months, in February of 2010, the survey was closed and the results were tabulated.

In total, 193 individuals participated in the survey. Among them, 97 local governments in the province are represented, comprising 51 per cent of all local governments. Large, medium and small municipalities from every region of the province are represented.

Think City would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate and share your knowledge and experience with us. Here are the results of the survey.

ii. Survey Results

Question 1: Residential property taxes account for which percentage of your total revenues?

  • Average 49.1%
  • Median 48%

Question 2: Business property taxes account for which percentage of your total revenues?

  • Average 19.9%
  • Median 15%

Question 3: Development cost levies account for which percentage of your total revenues?

  • Average 3.9%
  • Median 1%

Question 4: In the current fiscal climate, is your local government contemplating: (check all that apply)

  • Taxation increases 74.7%   
  • Taxation cuts 6.7%   
  • Increases in  expenditure 34.3%   
  • Cuts in expenditure 39.3%   
  • No significant changes 24.2%   

Question 5: Has your local government received revenue from any new sources in the last four years?

  • Yes 56.4%       
  • No 43.6%       

Question 6: If you answered “Yes” to Question 5, please briefly describe those new revenue sources.

Think City looked carefully at all the answers to this question to identify current steps that local governments are taking to diversify their revenue sources, and reflected many of these best practices in chapters three and four.

Question 7: Given the current economic downturn, has your local government had difficulty collecting taxes from large, industrial taxpayers?

  • Yes 15.2%        
  • No 84.8%        

Question 8: Does your local government have an economic development strategy that incorporates tools such as local procurement, local hiring and/or community economic development?

  • Yes 59.8%       
  • No 40.2%        

Question 9: If your government had new revenues equal to five per cent of your current budget, what would be your top three priorities for that new revenue?

  • Infrastructure/maintenance 37%
  • Financial reserves/tax reduction 15%
  • Recreation, sports, arts and culture 13%
  • Tourism/economic development 9%
  • Environmental programs/projects 8%
  • Housing and social programs 6%
  • Policing and fire services 6%
  • Improving current programs/staffing 6%

Question 10: The Province of Saskatchewan has agreed to transfer an amount equal to one percentage point or one-fifth of its five per cent provincial sales tax (PST) to local governments in Saskatchewan. The Province of British Columbia should use Saskatchewan’s policy as a model and transfer a share of the new harmonized sales tax (HST) to local governments in BC.

  • Strongly agree 66.3%       
  • Agree 22.7%       
  • Disagree 1.8%       
  • Strongly disagree 0.6%       
  • Don’t know 8.6%       

Question 11: British Columbia’s carbon tax is estimated to generate $1.85 billion in its first three years. Instead of requiring that 100 per cent of this money be used to cut other taxes for individuals and business, the provincial government should direct these funds towards public transit, energy saving retrofits of public buildings, and other local initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Strongly agree 46.6%       
  • Agree 31.3%       
  • Disagree 9.8%       
  • Strongly disagree 4.9%       
  • Don’t know 7.4%       

Question 12: Energy generation and sales represents an opportunity for some local governments to create a new source of revenue. Our local government is looking for ways to use our systems, assets, and natural resources to create energy for internal use and/or external sales.

  • Strongly agree 27.8%       
  • Agree 40.7%       
  • Disagree 17.9%       
  • Strongly disagree 5.6%       
  • Don’t know 8.0%       

Question 13: In the United States, many local governments issue tax-free bonds backed by tolls, utility revenues, and other revenue streams. These municipal revenue bonds are typically used to finance large capital projects. If this option was made available to local governments in BC, our local government would be interested in exploring it.

  • Strongly agree 19.4%       
  • Agree  28.8%       
  • Disagree 19.4%       
  • Strongly disagree 10.6%       
  • Don’t know 21.8%       

Question 14: Large public sector pension funds such as the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec, and the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System invest in private equity, real estate development, government bonds and other securities. British Columbia should similarly coordinate its public sector pension plans to provide a pool of investment capital for business development and local and provincial government financing.

  • Strongly agree  14.9%       
  • Agree 28.6%       
  • Disagree 22.4%       
  • Strongly disagree 8.7%       
  • Don’t know 25.4%       

Question 15: Some economists have noted that municipal taxes and fees may have a regressive distribution (meaning that they impact lower income households disproportionately). Local governments should look at their tax policies through the lens of tax fairness for lower-income people.

  • Strongly agree 13.7%       
  • Agree 39.1%       
  • Disagree 26.7%       
  • Strongly disagree 6.2%       
  • Don’t know 14.3%