Survey says don't raise Victoria council pay, spend more on policing: city report

Victoria City Hall is seen in this undated Google Maps photo.

Victoria city councillors don't need more money, but the Victoria Police Department does. 

Those are the key takeaways from a city survey that garnered unprecedented public input on next year's budget.

On the whole, respondents rated spending on the city's operational budget as "just right," with the exception of policing, where two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said spending was "too low."

Another outlier in the operating budget input was in the area of Sustainable Planning and Community Development, where residents were evenly split between calling the spending either "just right" or "too high."

But the question of whether or not to raise council pay was most decisive.

When asked if raising the annual base salaries and benefits of councillors – excluding the mayor – to the median city staff income of $70,100, the suggestion was roundly rejected.

The overwhelming majority of respondents, 86 per cent, said they "strongly disagreed" with the idea, according to a staff report.

Coun. Ben Isitt, whose motion last month sparked the debate over council pay, downplayed the response from the public and suggested council could shift its schedule to evening meetings to allow councillors to have regular daytime employment.

"Public opinion region-wide appears to support limiting Victoria city councillors to part-time remuneration and duties, based on the results of this unscientific questionnaire of self-selected residents," Isitt said in a statement to CTV News.

"Public access to councillors could also be reviewed, shifting to a lower level of responsiveness to correspondence, meeting requests, telephone calls and media inquiries." 

With respect to capital spending on things like city infrastructure, most respondents rated the city's budget as just right, with the exception of spending on active transportation – walking and cycling infrastructure – which respondents rated as "too high."

Overall, most Victoria taxpayers say they are dissatisfied with how their money is spent by the city, with 37 per cent saying they get "fairly poor value" for their money, 18 per cent saying they get "very poor value," 41 per cent saying they get "fairly good value," and four per cent saying "very good value."

More than 5,100 Victoria residents and business owners responded to the online survey, which city staff note was a "significant increase" over years past.