Some Richmondites, especially seniors and fixed-income earners, aren’t pleased with the 5.68-per-cent tax increase proposed by Richmond city council.
This was the result of a survey released Tuesday by Richmond Community Coalition (RCC), a municipal political party.
The online survey, conducted by RCC between Feb. 24 and March. 14, aims to gain more insight into what individuals and families think of the property tax increase approved by council.
City councillors voted 5-3 in favour of the 2021 operating budget in January. Part of the increase, about two per cent, is for hiring an additional 16 RCMP police officers, 12 additional firefighters and 11 new municipal workers to support the RCMP detachment.
The proposed operating budget represents a total increase of 5.68-per-cent for 2021.
“It is remarkable that over 1,700 questionnaires were received in 2.5 weeks. The survey shows that the public is very concerned about the substantial increase in property tax. Due to many participants, the survey results are of significant reference value and the city council cannot ignore them,” said Sheldon Starrett, spokesperson for RCC.
Starrett also noted more than 600 people left comments in the questionnaires, which mostly reveal the financial hardship they have been through amid the pandemic as retirees and fixed-income earners. Many people are also pressing council to show more evidence that recruiting additional RCMP officers would actually improve public safety.
A total of 1,743 people completed the online survey. Of all participants, 59.15 per cent of them (1,031) indicated the proposed tax increase is way too high while 1.43 per cent (25) think the raise is appropriate and only 0.8 per cent (14) believe the increase is far too low.
The report also found that 39 per cent of respondents (673) are likely to prefer no tax increase at all this year.
Richmondites comprise 94.49 per cent of the respondents (1,647), 3.9 per cent are non-local residents who work, study or own property in the city, while only 1.61 per cent have no connection to Richmond.
Some people suggest cutting costs as an alternative solution, including decreasing city staff salaries, according to the survey.
In addition, 1,466 of those surveyed are experiencing loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic while 277 people said their income hasn’t been affected at all.
Richmond City Coun. Chak Au, a member of RCC who opposed the tax hike, said it’s questionable to have a “massive tax hike” at this time because Richmond lost 17,550 jobs in the first 11 months of 2020, according to a report provided to the city by a third-party consulting firm.
RCC plans to release a summary of survey results at their public town hall meeting on March 21 and submit the report to city council in the next few weeks.