Opinion Editorial

Barrie's 2016 community survey surprises

Governments asking people what they think should heed a warning.

Some answers can be totally unexpected.

Case in point is the 2016 community survey, a phone poll that asked 1,000 residents in October what they thought of the quality of life in Barrie, its council and city services.

The latter ranged from transit, roads and drinking water to policing, fire protection and recreation facilities.

And the relation between property taxes and services.

The unexpected result is that 32% of homeowners surveyed said they would like to see property taxes go down, even if it meant service levels dropped.

Figuratively speaking, that should be a shot across the bow for the 11 people who sit around the council table.

A political zinger, so to speak.

Just let that sink in, that nearly one third of city homeowners want their taxes to go down even if it means service levels fall.

And three years ago only 18% of homeowners surveyed said this.

True, this must be taken with a sizable grain of salt – as the survey did not ask which city services residents would rather do without, or at a diminished level, if their taxes were to decrease.

Police, firefighters or paramedics? Not likely.

Snowplowing and sidewalk clearing? Probably not either.

But not everyone uses recreation centres or art galleries or theatres, or even city parks, for that matter.

What about fireworks on Canada Day or New Year's Eve. Are they really a priority?

Also, to be fair, the survey said 61% of those polled would minimize tax increases while maintaining service levels, and 7% would pay more tax to increase services.

But in 2013, 72% would keep tax increases to a minimum while maintaining city service levels, and 11% would pay more property tax to increase services.

What's the message here?

A significant number of Barrie homeowners are very close to, or right at, their property tax affordability level.

It's not only that they don't want to pay more taxes; nobody does.

It's that they can't.

Something for Barrie councillors to consider when another Christmas has come and gone, and they sit down in January to put together the 2017 budget – which sets both taxes and service levels.

Everybody wants this city to have A-1 service levels.

But not everyone can afford the bill. 



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