Listening to community residents and getting more value for property tax dollars:
How effective are your community’s fire, police, EMS, public works and other support services? Are the schools doing a good job? How do residents feel about proposed bond programs to support public works, school and other purposes? How satisfied are residents about living in your city or town? How do you know?
Many mayors, city managers and town/city councils are running their cities and communities without information and feedback from the vast majority of their city’s or town’s residents. A relatively small number of vocal residents typically attend city and town council meetings and provide suggestions and feedback. Unfortunately their opinions and feedback are often biased and represent their own personal interests, which are frequently different than the opinions of the majority of residents.
Costly decisions are often made without the benefit of hearing preferences and gaining insight from residents. For very little cost and effort, community satisfaction surveys provide information, opinions and insight from a wide range of residents. This gives municipal leaders a more balanced and objective understanding about how residents feel about services, important issues and the city/town leadership.
The best way to assess the effectiveness of community services and how well elected and hired city and town leaders are performing is to conduct a community satisfaction survey. Community satisfaction surveys enable residents to share their opinions, perceptions and suggestions about municipal services and government, and specific public issues. The findings from community satisfaction surveys can be shared with residents by posting the survey results on the city or town web site, in local newspaper articles and at monthly city or town council meetings.
Community satisfaction surveys provide an easy, cost-effective way for municipal government leaders to gather feedback and suggestions from and to be responsive to residents. Community satisfaction survey results provide information and insight for setting priorities and preparing budgets based on feedback from residents. Residents often identify ways to reduce costs, improve services and get more value for their tax dollars. They tell you what is working well and what needs improvement, and they often offer insight for how to make needed changes.
Today, most people including senior citizens use computers and the Internet. A highly effective way to conduct a community satisfaction survey is to conduct an online, or Web survey. Residents can complete the survey at home, at work or at the public library. Online/Web surveys are significantly less costly to conduct than paper or phone surveys. Another benefit of online/Web surveys is that once the survey response period is closed, reports can be generated very quickly because paper surveys do not have to be collected and date-entered.
Community Satisfaction Survey Metrics
Community satisfaction survey ratings provide a clear picture of city and town resident satisfaction. Voters’ comments and suggestions provide actionable information and insight for achieving results and being responsive to voters.
Community satisfaction essays are designed to gather perceptions about many important issues and to aggregate the results to get the pulse of the city/town. Surveys are usually customized to meet the information needs of municipal leaders.
Services and issues typically included in community satisfaction surveys:
• Perceptions about upcoming bond programs
• Fire Department, Police and EMS performance
• Effectiveness of schools
• Maintenance & availability of public recreational facilities
• Availability and effectiveness of youth, adult and senior citizen programs
• Satisfaction with the public library
• Street cleaning and road maintenance
• Parking availability
• Trash, snow and leaf removal
• Traffic control effectiveness
• Responsiveness of the mayor/city manager and town/city council
• How well public notice of important issues/decisions is communicated
• Responsiveness of zoning board and enforcement of zoning regulations
• Effectiveness of attracting and facilitating/supporting businesses
• Overall satisfaction with the wide range of services provided
Examining Community Satisfaction Survey Results by Resident Demographics:
Including resident demographic questions in community satisfaction surveys makes it possible to get survey results reports for the city or town overall, and by resident demographic criteria. Resident demographic questions provide useful information and insight in community satisfaction surveys, making it possible to see how each demographic group feels about issues and services. Some of the demographic questions that can be included in community satisfaction surveys are the section of the city or town where residents live, their age range, ethnic background, gender and other pertinent demographic information.
Benefits of Conducting Community Satisfaction Surveys:
Conducting community satisfaction surveys sends an important message to residents that their opinions are valued. Community satisfaction surveys enable residents to easily and cost-effectively voice their opinions and suggestions.
Acting on community satisfaction survey results enables elected and appointed officials and city/town managers to be more responsive to residents and to increase the performance of the various community services and elected and appointed officials. Residents’ opinions can be factored into budgets, initiatives and staffing decisions.
Conducting and taking action on community satisfaction survey feedback increases the effectiveness and popularity of mayors, city managers and city/town councils. Surveys provide an opportunity to increase payback on municipal budget dollars and to demonstrate to residents (remember, they are also tax payers) that elected and/or appointed officials are interested in running the city or town government effectively.
There is one additional reason to conduct community satisfaction surveys. A large number of residents will likely rate many of the services and issues included in the survey very high, indicating their satisfaction with these services and issues. It is important to know all of the positive aspects of your city or town. This feedback helps to build pride and it can be useful in promoting your city or town.
The bottom line, community satisfaction surveys provide significant benefits for mayors, city managers, city and town councils and employees, and residents.