06/12/2013 03:03 EDT

Calgary's $52 Million Tax Surplus Poll Reveals People Want The Money Back

City Of Calgary

A majority of Calgarians want money back in their pockets from the city's $52 million tax surplus, according to an independent poll by ThinkHQ Public Affairs.

In a survey of 442 Calgarians, 39 per cent said they want the money handed back to residential property owners, while one quarter chose reducing the city's debt and 17 per cent want it to fund public transit. Only 12 per cent want the money to go toward renewal of older communities and one per cent want it to cut business taxes.

Seven per cent are undecided on what the city should do with the money.

The poll also found the $52 million debate is a hot-button issue, with 88 per cent of those surveyed being aware that the surplus was being debated by city council. Over 53 per cent of respondents also voted for the issue to be decided by plebiscite during the municipal election in October.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi solicited citizens on how the city should spend a $52 million tax surplus, and two weeks of public consultations, both online and in malls around the city, followed.

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The consultation also included a Dragon's Den style debate with Calgarian W. Brett Wilson, who questioned five aldermen, each representing one of the options.

While some called the initiative a gimmick, Nenshi insisted a decision had not been made going into the public engagement exercise.

The five options given to Calgarians include transit, reducing non-residential property taxes, revitalizing communities, reducing the debt or lowering the tax that homeowners pay.

The $52-million surplus materialized after the city budget estimated the province would ask for more money than they actually did in 2013.

The results will be shared with the public in the second week of July and submitted to city council the following week.