by Colin Smith
Just over one per cent of Morinville community members completed a recent survey aimed at seeking community input on the town’s next budget.
Some 139 members did the Budget 2023 Public Engagement Survey online through EngageMorinville.ca, while 10 filled out the paper survey form.
The survey was launched on July 20, 2022, and was open for public input until August 15, 2022.
In addition to overall questions about funding municipal services in Morinville, there were specific survey questions related to snow and ice control service levels and to community bus usage.
In the first question, what approach Morinville should take to taxes in 2023, 56.4% of the 149 participants choose the response “No tax increase even if it means a significant reduction in services.”
Increasing taxes in line with inflation was chosen by 32.2%, while 11.4% opted for boosting taxes by more than inflation to work toward reducing the operating deficit and maintaining services.
The second question asked how Morinville should collect more revenue if necessary.
Increasing existing user fees was the choice of 58.4%, while 24.8% chose to introduce new types of service fees, and 16.8% approved of increasing property taxes.
Substantial majorities of respondents said they would support an increase in user fees, such as the cost of Morinville Leisure Centre admission and memberships, sports field and arena rentals, and Morinville Community Cultural Centre rentals if it meant a reduction in property taxes.
A question about decreasing, maintaining or increasing spending on 19 existing services and programs saw no majority for any particular decrease or increase.
Seventy-one respondents, the largest number, would cut funding for Morinville Museum, while only three would do so for Emergency Services – Fire and Ambulance. Sixty-six would increase funds for Economic Development to attract and retain jobs/business investments and six would increase funds for the museum.
In the section on snow and ice service levels, respondents deemed overall cost to the taxpayers to be the most important factor to consider, followed by ensuring mobility through the transportation network and then safety and injury prevention.
The Morinville Community Bus had been ridden by nine of the 149 people who responded to this question about it.
The community bus was rated very or somewhat unimportant to themselves by 58.8 per cent of respondents, while 23% saw it as very or somewhat important and 18.2% neither important nor unimportant.
Public transit services from Morinville to St. Albert would never be used or used only on special occasions by 80.9% of respondents. It would be used daily by 4.8%.
Higher taxes to implement a public transportation service were opposed by 88.4%
Demographics of those who completed the survey were: age 25-34, 20.1%; 35-44, 36.2%; 45-54, 18.1%, 55-64, 12.8%; 65-74, 9.4%; 75+, 3.4%.
Of the respondents 83.54% were homeowners within Morinville, 6.33% were renters/tenants within Morinville, 3.8% owned/operated businesses here, 2.53% owned/operated rental property here, and 3.8% were “other.”
It was intended to be a tool of public participation to form a budget proposal for Council consideration.
As the survey was not random, its results are not considered valid from a statistical point of view.
But they will be used as one of a number of sources of information to be taken into account in putting together the 2023 budget.
The report pointed out that some survey responses were contradictory in calling both for no tax increases and increased services such as a community pool.
The survey was publicized in a variety of ways including the town website and social media and digital platforms, paid advertising, a media release, posters, on-street signage, budget engagement business cards, a utility bill insert, displays/banners, participation at the Farmer’s Market and making printed surveys available at town facilities.
Interim CAO Michelle Hay indicated she considers the survey a success, despite what could be considered a low response rate, as the first tryout of the Engage Morinville platform.
Council accepted the Budget 2023 Public Engagement Survey results report as information.