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The results of Olathe’s most recent citizen survey were presented to the Olathe City Council Tuesday evening showing the trend of improvement in citizen satisfaction continued again in 2009.
The survey showed Olathe’s overall satisfaction index increased to 126 from the original baseline of 100 in 2000. The City rated at 123 in the 2008 survey. In contrast, the overall satisfaction index for the metropolitan area declined from 100 in 2000 to 93 in 2009.
The survey, DirectionFinder, is conducted by ETC Institute and included responses from over 1,200 Olathe residents. It has a +/-2.8% margin of error and was administered in October and November of 2009. Olathe is one of over 200 cities and counties in the United States using DirectionFinder to gauge citizen satisfaction and priorities.
Once again, Olathe has the metropolitan area’s highest rating in satisfaction with overall city services and is at or near the top in nearly every other major category. Improvement in east/west traffic flow, a City Council priority, was a key factor in the increased satisfaction levels. The Council has invested heavily in projects such as the 127th Street Overpass over I-35 and the railroad grade separation project, as well as the Automated Traffic Management System, each designed to ease congestion.
Citizen satisfaction increased despite nearly three years of City budget and staff reductions which ETC Institute Executive Vice President Chris Tatham attributed to several factors. He said, “The City has continued to be very strategic in making sure its limited resources are being used on what is most important to residents, and that has been a major driver.” But according to Tatham, that was not the only factor. He said, “The City has been very proactive and transparent in communicating about the economic situation and involving residents in the budget process, and residents realize that some areas will be impacted.” He continued, “However, residents indicate they are seeing more value for their tax dollars, and that tells me they truly appreciate how the City’s performing in the current economic climate.”
Tatham also attributed the improvement to the direction residents see the city headed. He said, “The City has transformed itself over the last decade in terms of quality services, strategic infrastructure investments and its position as a regional leader, and that has created a lot of good will.” Tatham added, “Olathe has moved from average at best in 2000 (when the survey was first conducted) to one of the region’s and nation’s leaders in resident satisfaction.” He said, “No other city we survey has seen this level of satisfaction improvement.”
According to City Manager Michael Wilkes, the survey remains a valuable tool. He said, “Our City Council has always worked very hard to make sure our limited resources are being used on areas most important to our residents, and DirectionFinder is a tremendous tool.” He continued, “It’s also critical to staff, so we can identify areas where we can improve and make changes.”
Wilkes was particularly pleased with the City’s high marks in customer service. According to Tatham, Olathe’s customer service level is unique. He said, “In many cities, residents who contact their city government have lower satisfaction levels, but it’s clearly different in Olathe….people who contact Olathe with a concern or problem usually end up actually having a higher opinion of the City.”