Maintaining and renewing the District of Houston’s roads and its water and sewer systems ranked first among community issues by residents who responded to a District survey.
The survey, conducted online from Jan. 19 to Feb. 12, helped meet the District’s legislated obligation to gather public opinion as it prepares its budget for this year and updates its longer term financial planning.
Access to health services ranked second among community priorities with trails, paths and sidewalk reliability ranking third, economic diversification fourth and access to recreation opportunities placing fifth.
Just 97 people responded to the online survey, an estimated 3.12 per cent of the District’s population with people between the ages of 55-64 ranking first in responses based on age. More women than men participated.
Out of 15 community issues listed, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change ranked 14th and 15th.
Survey participants were also asked to rank their top five municipal services in terms of importance to the community.
Emergency services — fire, road rescue and medical — ranked first in that category with snow removal coming second followed by road construction and maintenance, the leisure facility pool and gym and maintenance of parks, greenspaces and trails.
The five least important municipal services were listed as arts, culture and heritage, animal control, providing information and customer service, community grant writing and cemetery services.
“It is important to note that some services may be more important to others than they are for some depending upon demographics,” noted District communications officer Holly Brown in presenting a summary to council.
She said 81 per cent of those who responded owned a home and so “they may place a higher importance on things such as garbage collection and water services.”
And although road construction and maintenance and snow removal ranked high in importance, 62 per cent of respondents were the least satisfied with road construction and maintenance while half placed snow removal at the second lowest level of service satisfaction.
One-quarter of those who responded were unaware of the District’s animal control service while 22 per cent were unaware of its bylaw enforcement service and 22 per cent were unaware of the role it plays in art and culture.
The District is required by law to balance its budget each year and 30 per cent favoured increasing user fees for services as one way of accomplishing that while 26 per cent called for a slight increase in property taxes.
A majority of respondents did say they favoured a property tax increase of two to two and a half percent to maintain existing service levels, something that would generate $88,600 to $110,750 a year.
And should council raise taxes beyond that range, a slim majority of respondents were in favour should the increase go to road maintenance and construction while 32 per cent favoured the increase be used to increase snow removal.