County and Town Citizen Surveys

Over the summer, both the Town and the County surveyed citizens and asked them what they thought of their services and their cost.  Unfortunately, participation was poor.  The County’s survey was from July 10 to 31 and they got 54 responses; the Town’s started on August 10 and when KPMG reported to Council on August 24, they said there were only 122 responses as of August 18.  The Town’s survey was supposed to finish on Aug 24 but as of August 27 it was still active.  One reason for the municipalities to ask for input is that the pandemic will put a big strain on budgets so maybe services should be cut or should taxes get a big hike?  Although the surveys were separate and will be evaluated separately, this report covers both.

Although the County had few responses, the ones they did get were mostly similar to answers in the previous year when there were 374 responses so the 54 were taken as valid.  The Cobourg survey used consultant KPMG and they will be providing a final report in October which will also (hopefully) include recommendations on possible efficiencies.

County

Here is a brief summary of key County questions with some charts.

Q. How familiar are you with what the County does versus the Town?
A. 72% Somewhat familiar

Q. Of the County Services, which are most important?
A. Paramedics,  infrastructure (roads and bridges),  Managing tax dollars and financial reporting, Garbage collection and management

Q. Which County services are least important?
A. Community archives/museum programming, Small business supports, County Forest recreation and conservation.

Q. How satisfied are you with how these County-provided services/programs are currently being delivered in our community?  

How satisfied

 

Q. What are the most important Issues?

What are Important Issues

 

Q. Given the Covid-19 impacts, Council asked staff for a 0% tax increase.  What options would you prefer? 

Preferred Options

Q. How much should taxes change? 

Preferred Tax Change

See the Links below for the full County report.

Cobourg – Initial Findings

Summary of findings by KPMG as presented by Oscar Poloni. 

  • There appears to be little to no interest on the part of Council for outright service reductions
  • Operating efficiencies and customer service enhancements are the priority objectives of the review (It’s called a Service Sustainability Review)
  • In comparison to the selected peer municipalities, residential taxes in Cobourg are towards the upper end of the range both in terms of absolute dollar value and as a percentage of average household income. The difference reflects lower income levels in Cobourg, fixed cost of delivering certain services and differences in service levels

    Relative Taxes

  • The Town’s cost to deliver “core” municipal services is generally consistent with the selected peer municipalities
  • Certain discretionary services have a limited effect on the municipal levy – the Marina is break even, the campground contributes to the Town, More than 50% of the cost of the CCC comes from user fees so its portion of levy is limited.

To be fair, the County survey was focused on how to achieve a zero tax levy increase but Cobourg’s was focused on what efficiencies could be achieved.

Types of Service
Definitions
  • Mandatory: A legislative or regulatory requirement e.g. a Treasurer and Clerk.
  • Essential: Not mandatory but is essential for preservation of property or public health.  e.g. a C.A.O., water and waste water management
  • Traditional:  Not mandatory or essential – e.g.  Parks and Recreation, an Arena, cultural programs, physician recruitment
  • Discretionary:  e.g. Affordable Housing, Criminal background checks by police

Note that the amounts are based on the 2020 budget, not actuals.

The survey asked if people thought the right amount of money was being spent.  Here’s what the 122 people said:

Right Amount of Money?

Note that the Town survey numbers may change when there are more responses and it should be interesting to see if KPMG finds any costs that can be reduced.

Note:  As of 28 August, the Town’s survey is still open at Engage Cobourg.

Links

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22 Comments
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MiriamM
4 September 2020 9:04 pm

On surveys, the east pier design options explained in a video (link below) and a survey on the Engage Cobourg site.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nZ4SrquBhY&feature=youtu.be

Cobourg taxpayer
2 September 2020 6:49 pm

I did complete both surveys and have in the past. When there were public meetings in the past I attended those as well. What I have found is that no matter what suggestions I give in relation to reduced spending of taxpayers money, reduced hiring of staff and lowering tax increases it makes absolutely no difference. Both levels of government continue to spend and hire as if the population growth is much higher then it is. Perhaps that explains the very low participation rate. There are too many white elephants in this town: the CCC, the library that is too grandiose for the population here, Victoria Hall, Kerr Street, the hospital and now the up and coming Golden Plough. This should not be built until COVID-19 is better understood.

JimT
31 August 2020 10:20 am

Speaking of County matters: is there any truth to the rumour my neighbour passed along that our recycles and genuine garbage are currently being dumped into the same compartment of the truck and the whole lot sent off to the landfill instead of the recycle facility?

Last edited 23 days ago by JimT
jimq
Reply to  JimT
31 August 2020 12:56 pm

On our local street, the blue & grey boxes are both dumped into the same bin on the truck. The green composting material bin is picked up by another truck designated just for that purpose. Don’t know where both trucks go after they are filled up.

Last edited 23 days ago by jimq
JimT
Reply to  jimq
31 August 2020 3:23 pm

Maybe that’s it. Thank you.

Keith Oliver
29 August 2020 1:30 pm

One major problem with making both the Cobourg and County Survey know is the fact that both governments relied on their web-sites or other digital media to make the opportunity to comment known. To John’s credit he apparently posted the opportunity on his “News Update” which I missed. As important forms of hard won local democratic government, both need to find more inclusive ways of reaching their Public especially those who are not comfortable with, or do not have the means to connect with, the digital media. Let me explain. What many fail to realize is that there is a growing division between two new classes; those who are comfortable and skilled in using the web and social media … and those who aren’t. I did not grow up as the www and digital technology developed. As an outsider I see how much time individuals spend (and in my opinion more often than not waste) on that media, how much importance they attach to it as a part of their social life, their sole source of information. With few exceptions which include John Draper’s efforts, and like many of my friends, I rely on newspapers, telephone calls, face-to-face conversations and… Read more »

Last edited 25 days ago by Keith Oliver
cornbread
29 August 2020 8:12 am

How much did this survey cost…and how much good will it do?????

Cobourg…get back to Basics, reduce the frills and the cute extras we don’t need.

Sandpiper
Reply to  cornbread
29 August 2020 10:36 am

Yes Reduce — there are a lot of employees not working from home yet still on the payroll
even at the county level We called 9 different people in 1 department left messages with all those apparently working over a 2 day period about a road closure according to reception
all the persons she connected me with were working 9 days latter we received a call
said they would get back to us in 24 hrs and not a word 2 wks latter .

cornbread
Reply to  Sandpiper
30 August 2020 9:52 am

Our taxes at work for you!!! When it comes to professional supervision in this town and county…it’s a joke. Somebody(s) need to get fired but our politicians and top staff management don’t have the guts to do it.

Wally Keeler
28 August 2020 6:08 pm

participation was poor.

Apparently the vast, VAST majority don’t care, and they couldn’t care less about finding out about these surveys.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Wally Keeler
28 August 2020 7:18 pm

I am someone who cares, but did not fill out the survey.

KPMG will deliver whatever answer the client wants to hear as evidenced by their previous ‘Fair Hydro’ consultation which was denounced by the provincial auditor general.

“The accounting firm KPMG, which provided an opinion used by the government of Kathleen Wynne to justify a plan that would reduce electricity bills in Ontario at the expense of future consumers, demanded and received protection from legal liabilityas a condition of providing that opinion, a provincial report has …Apr 4, 2019”

Quite the accounting firm which will provide any answer the government wants to hear, but knowing their audit is bogus demands legal protection while cashing the client’s cheque.

These surveys and consultations are right up there with petitions when it comes to reliability and validity (yes CTA I am talking to you with your bogus Covid beach survey. )

Bryan
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
28 August 2020 10:10 pm

A serious claim, Mrs. Anonymous. In what way was the CTA’s online beach petition bogus?

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Bryan
29 August 2020 2:49 am

The petition asked for the town to close the beach to stop the spread of Covid 19. This implies that going to the beach contributes to the spread of Covid 19. It became apparent very early on that outdoor transmission of Covid 19 is not much of a risk, if any. The petition was worded to pray on fear rather than actual health risks.

Frenchy
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
29 August 2020 9:19 am

While I agree with your comment on the CTA petition, I do think that closing our beach did help stop the spread of C-19. The closure resulted in less people coming into town and if we are to believe town officials and Wally Keeler, quite a few of them were going to go up to King St. to buys couches at Tuggs, dine in (and take out from) our restaurants and even go farther uptown to shop at Walmart and maybe spend $200.00.
While I’m sure those establishments appreciated the business, the fact that we had less people coming into our town from places that perhaps didn’t have as clean a record as Cobourg and Northumberland County, lessened our chances of contracting C-19.
Less people = less contact.

Mrs. Anonymous
Reply to  Frenchy
29 August 2020 10:28 am

In cottage country, locals were very concerned about cottagers coming up and spreading Covid 19. Cottagers were asked to stay away at Easter. Many didn’t, grocery and liquor stores were busy in cottage towns. There was no increase in hospitalization (mostly there were no hospitalization ) or deaths.

Same with the May long weekend. Population tripled As usual and still no deaths, hospitalization or increased cases and this was pre mandatory masks.

Remember the brouhaha surrounding Park goers at a Trinity Bellwood’s? Nothing happened.

Sandbanks just down the road has been open all summer. Many of those people end up visiting Picton and travelling throughout the county. Has there been a big spike (or even a blip) in hospitalization or deaths?

There are risks with spreading Covid 19 but to date all evidence points to enclosed, close prolonged contact. Instead of going by what we “think” or “feel” why don’t we look at the evidence?

Bryan
Reply to  Mrs. Anonymous
29 August 2020 1:07 pm

To be clear then, your claim of “bogus” is based on the petition wording rather than the fact that it was online and that 1600+ people “signed” it, of which 1350+ were from Cobourg and an additional 240+ from Northumberland.

Others, such as Frenchy and Wally also had concerns about the wording and it is certainly within their right, and yours, to hold that opinion.

Your claim of “bogus” is an expression of your opinion, not fact.

I suggest, in the future, you (as Frenchy advised the CTA) also choose your words more carefully before you make inflammatory accusations based on opinion.

JimT
28 August 2020 3:01 pm

Survey? What survey? Nobody surveyed me, and this article gives no hint of whether it was online, door-to-door, person-on-the-street or what.

So where and how did this secret survey take place, and is it too late to add my opinion to the result? Apparently, yes.

Next time they should get the word out that a survey is taking place if they actually expect anyone to notice and reply.

JimT
Reply to  John Draper
28 August 2020 4:29 pm

Thanks, John. I admit I don’t monitor “social media” or your news update box. Apparently I may not be alone in that case.

Last edited 26 days ago by JimT
Bill Thompson
Reply to  JimT
29 August 2020 9:49 am

Look to the RH top box on this home page and you can’t miss the Update News !