Happy to live here, but taxes too high: survey results

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Most people in St. Albert think quality of life in the city remains good despite the economic downturn experienced by much of the province.

The results of the biennial community satisfaction survey were presented to the Standing Committee of the Whole on Monday.

Similar to last year, both online and telephone surveys were conducted, but only the results of the phone survey are considered to be official, because of the quotas used to ensure neighbourhoods, age groups and genders were statistically represented. There were a total of 400 telephone surveys and 593 online surveys.

In the phone survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents (99 per cent) said the quality of life in St. Albert was good (29 per cent) or very good (70 per cent).

“It’s lovely to see these numbers remain consistent, even in troublesome economic times,” said Traci With, vice-president of Banister Research and Consulting. “I have had some communities that took significant dips in this category this year.”

Parks, green spaces and the trail system remained the biggest factor in why people felt they had a good quality of life in St. Albert. Other key factors were the community atmosphere and small town feel, community safety, the availability of shopping and the availability of services.

High taxes continue to be the main detractor from a high quality of life, according to 40 per cent of respondents.

A higher percentage of respondents thought that St. Albert is a safe community, compared to 2014. Property crime was the biggest safety issue identified by respondents. With said this was not surprising given the tough economic times faced by the province.

More than 75 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the programs and services offered by the city. The highest ratings were given to fire, ambulance and police services, as well as community heritage programming.

Transit, engineering and economic development received the lowest ratings, with respondents indicating there is limited or infrequent transit service, high traffic volumes, a lack of shopping and a lack of a corporate tax base.

Though 30 per cent of respondents felt they received very good (24 per cent) or excellent (six per cent) value for their tax dollars, this group still identified that taxes were too high.

Reducing taxes was identified as the top priority for council, according to 21 per cent of respondents, followed by attracting more business (17 per cent) and enduring fiscal responsibility (17 per cent).

Coun. Wes Brodhead asked if answers to this question could be skewed by the level of attention high taxes receives in the media. With said this is possible.

“It seems to me like the public is trying to send council a message with the survey and this is it; we’re looking at it straight in the eye,” said Coun. Cam MacKay on the issue of high taxes.

There was a significant increase in overall satisfaction with municipal leadership.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents felt that council acted in the best interests of the community (up from 54 per cent in 2014), while 54 per cent of respondents felt that council effectively plans for the future (45 per cent in 2014) and 53 per cent felt that their personal interests were being served by council (42 per cent in 2014).

The biggest issues facing council include poor decision-making, the perception of infighting amongst members of council and concerns that tax dollars are being misspent.

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Michelle Ferguson