Strong number of responses to Township spending survey

Business consultant Andrew Mackey told Langley Township council Monday about the results of a survey on the 2011 budget and overall Township spending plans.

A high-tech Langley Township survey about the 2011 budget probably doesn’t precisely reflect community opinion, but it’s still worthwhile, council was told Monday.

“It is not a statically valid survey,” said Andrew Mackey of Andrew Mackey and Associates, the Vancouver-based business consulting company that conducted the survey. “It is a self-selecting survey.”

The poll was conducted using a mix of online forms, written brochures and open houses to test taxpayer attitudes.

It shows participants were almost evenly split over whether to raise taxes or cut services to balance the budget, but most participants would prefer cutting spending on recreation and culture over street maintenance and policing.

At 818 respondents, Mackey said the sample size was significant, larger than the turnout for similar surveys in Vancouver. Most of the participants (552), completed the survey on the Township’s website, 238 completed a feedback form provided in a brochure circulated to homes and businesses, and just 28 people attended two open houses.

“I think it’s a very balanced representation of a specific group of people,” Mackey told council.

By that, he meant residents who are more engaged than most taxpayers because they willingly took part in the survey.

In response to council questioning, Mackey said open houses are “not a great return on investment” given the expense of having staff attend the events.

“But you have to have at last one [open house],” he added.

Three out of four people, 78 per cent, were positive when asked to rate the level of service provided by the Township.

A substantial number, 38.1 per cent, would support increasing taxes to maintain services while a roughly similar amount, 34.2 per cent, preferred cutting services.

But not police or fire.

Ninety per cent rated police services as important or very important, with 87 per cent giving the same ranking to fire protection.

Recycling and garbage services followed at 83 per cent.

There was less support for libraries, parks, swimming pools, trails, community centres, sports playing fields, with municipal services, museums and other cultural facilities winning 39 per cent support while ice rinks received 38 per cent.

One in two people supported closing or reducing the operating hours at Langley Centennial Museum, reducing grants to non-profit organizations and cutting hours of operation at recreation facilities to save money, while only one in 10 were willing to cut spending on road maintenance.

Mackey said there was “quite a lively group” of Aldergrove residents who wanted more spending on turf fields.

The proposed 2011 budget calls for a 3.95 per cent tax increase and $1.4 million in cost cutting measures to cover what a Township statement described as “a shortfall in revenue caused by the slowdown in new residential, business, and commercial development that was brought on by the recent economic downturn.”

The 2011 budget and five-year financial plan will be discussed by Township council in March.