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More than half of Winnipeg residents believe property taxes should be hiked to protect the quality of city services, a Winnipeg Free Press/CBC Manitoba poll conducted by Leger Marketing suggests.

Fifty-six per cent of city-dwellers polled by the marketing firm between Oct. 6-17 agreed that property taxes should increase in order to maintain public services at current levels.

However, 38 per cent of residents — one third of the city — believe property taxes should remain frozen at today's levels even if that involves cutting back on city services, the poll stated.

Winnipeg is in its 13th  consecutive year of a property-tax freeze.

The poll results come from a random telephone survey of 800 adults living in Winnipeg. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

When it comes to the current mayoral race, Leger said 75 percent of residents intending to vote for former NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis on Oct. 27 support the idea of a property tax increase.

Most people interviewed by CBC News were willing to pay more. Some, however, said services should also increase in that case.

"That would be fine if I thought the level of service was fine, but the area that I live in tends to be left out a lot," said Lilja Tonnellier, who lives in the inner city.

"It seems to take a long time for work to get done. We're at the low end of the totem pole."

David Salita, who lives in Charleswood, not only supports an increase but says the city needs it.

'Our climate is very harsh in winter and it takes a lot of money to maintain the city.' —Alda Almeida, Tuxedo resident

"There's things that need to be done. Sidewalks in Charleswood are all very bad [and] they need to have more police on the streets," he said.

"Raising property taxes, I think it's probably about time."

Kim Hunter, who lives in the inner city, agreed.

"In the inner city our tax rates are not the same as they are in some of the suburban areas, but you can't have a well-maintained, thriving city without money," she said.

Alda Almeida, who lives in the Tuxedo area, concurred.

"Our climate is very harsh in winter and it takes a lot of money to maintain the city."

Tax tussle

Wasylycia-Leis has pledged to raise property taxes on current home assessment values by two per cent a year over four years.

She has repeatedly said her "modest" plan is geared toward growing city revenues. 

Wasylycia-Leis said the increase would cost homeowners $27 a year on average on a home assessed by the city at $90,000.

The tax revenue would be funneled towards infrastructure, parks and policing, she said.

Katz has said he would not commit to either continuing the current tax freeze or an increase to Winnipeg's property tax.

The incumbent has repeatedly said property taxes are "regressive," and that his opponent's plan would do virtually nothing to address the city's infrastructure deficit.

Katz has also said he is waiting to see a report from a committee looking into obtaining funds from the provincial and federal governments before making an announcement on the future of property taxes.

He has said he will lobby the provincial government for a share of the PST, saying that would raise about $130 million a year to fix crumbling roads and bridges.

The two main mayoral candidates have tussled over taxes. Not long after Wasylycia-Leis announced her tax-hike proposal, some Winnipeggers began receiving automated phone messages from Katz.

"People should not lose their homes when there are other avenues to consider first," the message, delivered in Katz's voice, stated.

Wasylycia-Leis called Katz's tactic "fear-mongering."