A majority of Winnipeg's voters would prefer to raise property taxes to ensure service levels are maintained rather than maintain the city's tax freeze and possibly cut back on funding for services, a Leger Marketing survey suggests.
When asked to choose between the idea of raising property taxes at inflationary rates or maintaining a tax freeze even if that means cutting back, 56 per cent of Winnipeg adults would choose a tax hike, according to the survey of 800 randomly selected adults earlier this month.
In contrast, only 38 per cent of the sample chose to maintain a tax freeze, even if that meant cuts. Six per cent refused to answer or didn't know.
The polling results on what has become a key election issue suggests a majority of Winnipeg voters are more in tune with mayoral challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis' proposal to raise property taxes, said Leger vice-president Dave Scholz.
Only slightly more than a third are in line with Mayor Sam Katz, who has criticized Wasylycia-Leis' plan as picking "low-hanging fruit" and has promised to treat property-tax increases as a last resort.
Winnipeg has reduced or frozen its pool of property taxes for the past 13 years. The policy began at the end of the Susan Thompson's administration and continued through the Glen Murray and Katz years.
The city now has one of the lowest municipal property-tax burdens in Canada. Wasylycia-Leis has promised to raise taxes two per cent a year for four years, a move that would garner the city an additional $90 million in revenue over four years.
The move would also see the average annual tax burden for a Winnipeg property wind up being $200 higher in 2014 than it is today, according to city assessment and taxation figures.
Katz has repeatedly called tax increases regressive and has said Wasylycia-Leis' revenue plans would hurt seniors and other people on fixed incomes. But he has refused to rule out a tax hike of his own in 2011.
Wasylycia-Leis has repeatedly challenged Katz to present a revenue plan of his own.
"Thinking about property taxes in Winnipeg, which of the following statements best reflects your opinion?
Property taxes should increase based on inflation in order to maintain public services at current level: 56 per cent
Property taxes should be frozen at current levels even if it means cutting back on spending for some services in the city: 38 per cent
Don't know/refuse to answer: Six per cent
-- Source: Leger Marketing poll of 800 Winnipeg adults in October 2010