DATE CHANGED: Public Meeting will be April 12.
Mark your calendars for the Public Meeting on Sunday, April 12.
As many of us know, this year Rossland City Council tried a new approach to getting citizen input on budget priorities. They went on-line with an exercise done in collaboration with Rossland’s own Thoughtexchange company to gather ideas and opinions from Rossland residents. Those ideas and opinions were stimulated by two hypothetical scenarios for dealing with Rossland’s infrastructure deficit.
At a Committee-of-the-Whole (COW) meeting of Council on March 3, Thoughtexchange delivered the results to Council. As Councillor Aaron Cosbey commented, the results were not translated into conclusions — just the raw data was provided, including several graphs summarizing residents’ reactions to Scenarios A and B.
Hypothetical Scenario “A” involved a property tax increase of 4% (which would result in an overall increase of about 2% on our tax bills, because only about half of our tax bill is actually property tax payable to the City). Hypothetical Scenario “B” would feature a property tax increase of 10%, resulting in an overall tax bill increase of about 5%. Each scenario also explained how the City could allocate available funds between services and capital projects.
Councillors expressed surprise at how many people thought the 10% increase in property tax was the best option — residents’ comments included “It would get the debt over with faster” and “not doing the higher increase makes it worse in the future.”
When questioned, Dave Macleod of Thoughtexchange acknowledged that the self-selecting nature of the survey means that it is likely somewhat skewed toward responses from higher-income and / or more highly educated residents — those who can afford a bigger tax bite, and/or who are willing and able to endure the pain for the longer-term benefit and liveability of the community.
Other people responded to Scenario B with concerns that such a big increase in property taxes would drive lower-income people out of Rossland — would make Rossland significantly less affordable for such people as seniors.
People were asked what was good about each scenario, what concerns they had about each, and what ideas and suggestions they wanted offer. 307 different people participated; among them, they expressed 1,336 “thoughts”. In the second phase of the exercise, people were asked to “rate” the different thoughts by assigning “stars” to the ones they liked the most.
Some residents’ comments revealed that the City needs to put out more information. As Councillor John Greene commented, “A lot of citizens don’t understand a lot of the things we’re learned over the past three months.”
Councillor Lloyd McLellan commented that he was not “on board with this” at first, but found that the City can build trust by asking questions, and said he was impressed by the results. Councillor Andy Morel echoed McLellan’s opinion.
Mayor Kathy Moore said the exercise was “a bit complex … but people persevered. This helps us a lot.”
And if you’re wondering what this exercise cost Rossland’s taxpayers, the answer is — nothing. Thoughtexchange donated their work, as a public service and because it was a learning experience for them, too — they’re never tried something like this with a municipal government before.
All the results will be available to the public soon.
To follow up on this with Rossland residents, there will be a public meeting at the Miners Union Hall on Sunday, April 12, from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.