Tax increases alone should not be used to balance City of Lacombe’s budget.
That was the message from many of those who filled out an online or paper budget survey or reached it through a social media web link.
Sixty per cent of respondents said the option they would support the least would be using property tax increases alone to make ends meet. Taking the same question from a different angle, only four per cent listed tax increases as the option they support the most.
The most popular option by a small margin was to balance the budget with a combination of property tax and user fee increases with 23 per cent supporting. Twenty-two per cent most supported small increases in property taxes and user fees as well as cuts to service levels.
The survey, which was posted online for three weeks, attracted 383 responses, up 45 per cent from last year, the first year the city did it.
“It’s just great that we saw a 45-per-cent increase in responses, that people are engaged in the budget process,” said Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie.
“That’s our main concern is getting people engaged and aware of the budget process.”
While some of the feedback is predictable — after all, not many people will endorse tax increases — the survey attempted to get people thinking about what service levels they expect, and if there is cutting, where.
Residents seem generally satisfied with the value they were getting from their tax dollars for various services. About 60 per cent said they got very good or fairly good value for their tax dollars for recreation; 79 per cent for utilities; nearly 86 per cent for fire and police, and 72 per cent for city administration.
Survey takers were also given $100 to spend on services as they saw fit. Roads, which includes snow clearing, came out on top, followed closely by protective services. Recreation, parks and trails, community services and transit rounded out the list.
Roads also topped the list last year, followed by recreation, parks and trails, protective services and transit.
Christie said it is difficult to say for certain but he believes the higher priority given protective services has a lot to do with a general concern province-wide with crime rates.