Residents Say City Making Right Decisions, Satisfaction at a New High


Results of the City’s most recent citizen satisfaction survey are in, and Olathe continues setting high marks with residents.

In the face of today’s economic challenges and budget reductions, Olathe continues delivering high quality services, according to the most important judges, residents. According to its most recent citizen survey for 2008, residents give the City high marks.

Olathe continued seeing overall improvements in citizen satisfaction that dramatically outpaced any other community in the region. Since Olathe began using the survey, the City’s overall composite satisfaction score rose from a baseline of 100 in 2000 to 123 in 2008, up three points from the previous year. By contrast, the overall composite satisfaction index for the metropolitan area declined from 100 in 2000 to an overall score of 96 during that same time frame.

According to Olathe City Manager Michael Wilkes, the results help validate the City Council’s difficult financial decisions over the last six months. He said, “Clearly, the City Council had to make very difficult financial decisions that impacted what we do as an organization, but they allowed us to focus our limited resources on what was most important to our resident.”

ETC Institute’s Chris Tatham, the firm that conducted the study, cited two other issues that contributed to the satisfaction increase. He said, “For years, traffic congestion had been the city’s single biggest challenge.” He continued, “Though it remains a resident priority, the City’s investment in projects like the railroad grade separation, the 127th Street overpass, and the Automated Traffic Management System have made a major improvement to citizen satisfaction.” Tatham also cited some of the accolades the city has received as factors. He said, “When residents see their community singled out by national publications such as Money Magazine and Forbes as one of the best places to live in America, it validates their decision to live here and generally makes them feel better about their city.”

According to Mayor Michael Copeland, the survey is more important now than ever. He said, “The survey allows the City Council to listen to directly to residents when determining how to spend tax dollars.” He said, “It helps ensure we continue applying our residents’ limited tax dollars to what is most important.”

Residents reported the highest satisfaction since 2000 with City of Olathe’s overall services, according to the 2008 survey. This is the ninth year residents have participated in the annual survey designed as a strategic planning tool and a provider of benchmark information for the region and nation.

Survey respondents say Olathe is a leader among Kansas City Metropolitan Area cities in the overall quality of city services, rating at or near the top in all eight of the major service categories. Those categories are overall quality of: police, fire and ambulance services, parks and recreation, customer service, effectiveness of communication with the public, maintenance of city streets, buildings and other infrastructure, stormwater management, water and sewer utilities and code enforcement.

Residents continue to identify flow of traffic/management of congestion and the maintenance of city streets, buildings and facilities as the top areas for emphasis. From 2000 to 2008, citizen satisfaction increased significantly in the area of traffic improvements, with 27 percent expressing satisfaction in 2000, and increasing to 49 percent in 2008.

Since 2000, citizens have consistently said that traffic improvements, especially for east-west travel, should be the top area for the City of Olathe’s emphasis. The City of Olathe has invested tens of millions of dollars to address traffic flow improvements. The elevated rail project over four streets was finished in 2008, and the 127th Street Overpass at I-35 and improvements to College Boulevard, which eliminated another railroad track crossing, were completed in 2007. The Advanced Traffic Management System became operational in 2005, allowing smoother traffic flow with added traffic signal control at major intersections.

The availability of public transportation was one area in transportation services with decreased satisfaction.

There were six service areas with increased satisfaction with public safety services during the past year: quality of local police protection, efforts to prevent crime, enforcement of local traffic laws, visibility of police in neighborhoods, visibility of police in retail areas and satisfaction with the overall area of animal control.

Tatham also noted that residents have a high level of understanding. He said, “Given the economic situation, residents realize there will be impacts on services, but they also have an appreciation and understanding the City is taking responsible steps.” He did express caution, however. He said, “It will continue to be a significant challenge to meet residents’ high expectations given the City’s funding cuts, but so far, limited revenue has been applied to resident priorities.”

The survey instrument, DirectionFinder, is a tool that tracks progress and provides benchmark data in the region and nationally. The survey was completed by 1,219 residents, and it had a margin for error of +/- 2.8%. It was conducted in October and November of 2008. Olathe is one of over 200 local governments across the United States using DirectionFinder.

The complete survey results, including analysis and maps, are available as a PDF, or watch the video of Chris Tatham's presentation.