The city will be spending an extra $17,000 to fund community roundtables or focus groups as well as add a new online budget tool.
Council voted to approve the biennial community satisfaction and opinion survey plan on Monday. Along with approving the plan, the vote also set in motion a plan to withdraw extra funds from the stabilization reserve to fund the new public consultation methods.
The online budget tool would allow users to be able to offer their input to the 2014 budget. Staff estimated the tool would cost about $7,000.
The public roundtables or focus groups would be designed to have a mix of participant demographics and occur in the next couple months.
The biennial community satisfaction survey has a $27,000 budget. Staff are proposing recruiting a vendor who will develop research themes for the survey along with other work, including developing a new questionnaire.
“We would work with a service provider to really tighten the survey and research objectives,” said Darija Slokar, corporate planning co-ordinator for the city.
She said previous years’ surveys have covered 11 different areas, resulting in a long survey that residents wouldn’t stay on the phone for.
There’s also a plan to try and reach younger residents through a cellphone sample group as well.
The vendor who helps with the survey might also recruit roundtable participants as well.
Maya Pungur-Buick, general manager of corporate strategic services, said it’s hoped the service provider will help figure out a way of reaching a more thorough demographic mix.
It was for this reason Pungur-Buick said opening up the survey online, a suggestion from Coun. Sheena Hughes, might not get the best results.
“If you just open up to everybody … it may not be a representative sample,” Pungur-Buick said.
Coun. Tim Osborne raised a concern about the proposal that city councillors lead the focus groups or roundtables and suggested the best use of council is to listen and gather material.
Mayor Nolan Crouse concurred. “Personally I don’t like that. I absolutely agree with Coun. Osborne,” he said.
Coun. Cam MacKay brought the recommendations forward as a motion, saying he thinks they could benefit from hearing from different people in the survey.
I would not mind investing a small sum to see if we can improve [the survey], he said, pointing out if council doesnt like the new survey and public consultation items, they dont have to approve the business cases for the items in the 2015 budget process.