2024 Budget Survey - What We Heard
The City engages with residents each year as it prepares the draft budget for Council’s consideration. The City consults with the community throughout the budget process – at the beginning when setting the guideline, when the draft budget is released, and before Council considers approving the budget.
The annual budget survey is one way the City engages with residents alongside other consultation opportunities, including public meetings and interactions between the community and Council and City staff through in-person conversations, phone calls and emails. Input from the community engagement is considered with other budget inputs such as legislated requirements and financial pressures.
The budget survey is a consultation tool – a way for residents to provide their opinions and comments for Council’s consideration. To reduce barriers and to encourage participation in the survey, registration was not required. It is not a scientific sample survey that is statistically defensible. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the population. The survey should be considered as a feedback tool that assists the conversations around budget priorities, City services, levers the City can use to pay for municipal services, and service level expectations.
The budget survey was open from March 28 to April 21, 2023. The survey offered broad, high-level topics and questions as one way for residents to engage in the budget process at this early stage of drafting the budget. There were 415 responses to the survey, up from 274 in 2022.
The survey was hosted on the City’s online community engagement platform, Connect Peterborough, at connectptbo.ca. To date, there have been approximately 1,200 visits to the 2024 Budget project page, with about 450 visits arriving from direct traffic from people who entered the website address, about 640 from social media links, about 85 from referrals from other sites, and about 30 from search engines. Hard copies of survey were available upon request and were available at the in-person, drop-in meetings held on April 13 and 21, 2023.
The budget survey and budget drop-in meetings were promoted through local media with coverage through television, radio, newspaper and online news outlets as well as on social media and through the City’s website.
Survey participants were asked how much they value various municipal service groups using a scale of very important, important, moderately important, slightly important and not important. Results showed that across all categories respondents find municipal services to be important, with the following categories receiving the highest number of Very important responses.
- Enabling affordable housing
- Social services
- Sewers, water, stormwater management
- Fire prevention, police, paramedics
- Environment protection, support for green projects
When asked to rank a list of issues, the average rankings placed the options in the following order:
- Social issues
- Health/public health
- Cost of living
- Physician recruitment
- Environment/climate change/sustainability
- Economy/jobs/economic issues
- Health and vitality of the downtown
- Arts, culture and heritage
- Crime/criminal activity
- Governance and transparency
- Provision of recreation facilities
Participants were asked to consider some of the broad tools that the City has available for balancing its budget, as required by law. They could select multiple options (previous year’s response in brackets).
- Introduce new user fees for some City services that currently have no fees – 49.2% (54%)
- Increase user fees for City services that currently have fees – 48.5% (47%)
- Increase property taxes – 40.4% (30%)
- Reduce service levels – 34.6% (38%)
Respondents indicated what they think the property tax change should be in 2023 based on their expectation for infrastructure and service levels. Based on the information available at the time, assumptions were made on what each option meant in terms of increasing, maintaining, or decreasing service levels to help inform the selection by participants.
- Generally, maintain existing levels of service, 3.5% increase – 27.5%
- Increase investments in infrastructure/services, 3.6% to 4% increase – 22.7%
- Reductions in services and infrastructure when accounting for inflationary increases, 1% to 3.4% increase – 14.9%
- Greater investments in infrastructure/services, greater than 4% increase – 10.9%
- Other (please specify) – 10.9%
- Substantially reduce services and infrastructure maintenance, 0% increase – 8.6%
- Drastically reduce services and investments in infrastructure, decrease property taxes – 4.5%
Outside of the specific questions in the survey, the survey included several opportunities for respondents to provide other comments on the budget. Respondents provided comments on topics such as the cost of living/inflation, housing, addictions, mental health issues, setting strategic goals for the City, the health of the downtown, reducing City expenses, finding efficiencies, maintaining infrastructure, police services, transit, roads, the environment and nature areas.
In addition to the Budget Survey, the Finance Chair and Vice Chair along with Council members hosted two casual drop-in style meetings and April 13 and 20 for residents to share their comments and ideas as an alternative to the more formal consultation option provided by appearing as a delegation at a Council meeting. About 30 people attended the two meetings. New to the budget process this year, the Finance Chair and Vice Chair will also be hosting two drop-in meetings after the Draft 2024 Budget is released to provide another opportunity for conversations and questions when the details of the draft budget are available.
Attendees at the two drop-in meetings in April spoke about priorities road conditions, sidewalks, cycling infrastructure, the trail network, arts funding, arts grants process, housing, homelessness, climate change, a social innovation centre for marginalized people, empowering marginalized people, the economy, and the downtown.
Summaries of survey questions are posted on the 2024 Budget project page: