Community survey finds residents more satisfied with city in 2020
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 2020 Steamboat Springs community survey found a high satisfaction rate among most Steamboat residents who responded, and public safety, locals housing, climate action and open space were among the top priorities they listed.
The survey, which was mailed to 2,500 households and received a 36% response rate, asked residents about inclusivity, government performance, public safety, general quality of life and community priorities.
“There’s always a lot of conjecture and a lot of opinions that you hear on the street. You read the blogs, and you try and form opinions as to which direction the city should go,” City Manager Gary Suiter said. “When cities do this (survey residents), it provides a statistically valid response to City Council upon which they can form their policy decisions.”
Surveys were sent out to 2,000 full-time and 500 part-time residents in November 2020, and responses were compared with responses from previous years as well as other resort communities of similar size.
Residents reported higher satisfaction levels this year than in previous years in several areas: animal control, street repair, public information and communication services, city recreation facilities, municipal court, city recreation programs, economic development efforts, overall customer service by city employees, police services, Financial support of nonprofit organizations, crime prevention, storm drainage and overall quality of life.
“A lot of the communities saw similar positive responses for government performances due to COVID,” said Laurie Urban, director of client success at Polco, an online platform aimed at helping connect local governments and communities. “Many people were satisfied with the way local governments handled COVID and that helped instill trust in local governments.”
Urban also said Steamboat’s results ranked higher than those comparable communities.
“These improvements are very intentional,” Suiter said.
However, many Steamboat Springs City Council members said council should try and focus on where improvements are needed, rather than spending too much time applauding the positive results.
“We can talk about all the good things, but I like to look at where we need to improve,” council member Kathi Meyer said.
When asked to rank their top priority, 47% of respondents said maintaining police, fire and EMS services, 44% said supporting new community housing for locals, 34% said climate action and resiliency and 29% said maintaining wildlife habitat and open space acquisition.
“I appreciate the fact that the community considers public safety services at the highest level of importance,” council member Robin Crossan said.
When asked about the city’s parks and recreation opportunities, 55% of respondents said they wanted to maintain facilities at their current level with no new tax or fee, 22% wanted to pay a new sales tax to improve and enhance the maintenance of current amenities, 16% wanted a property tax to improve and maintain amenities, and 7% wanted to pay higher fees for amenities.
Council members said they needed to “unpopular but important” discussions about needing more funds to maintain and improve city parks and amenities.
“At some point in the future, we’ll have to have an interesting conversation about parks and rec, because people want their facilities maintained at the current levels, but they don’t want taxes put into place to help that,” Crossan said. “That, to me, is one of those balancing acts we need to figure out.”
While the city is deep into discussions about putting a property tax on the November ballot, survey respondents had varied reactions to the topic. Forty-six percent were in support of a property tax for public safety departments, 34% were in support for essential city services, such as infrastructure and snow plowing, 25% were in support for parks and amenities, and 18% were in support for local and regional transit.
As for a tax on recreational substances, such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, 53% were in support of such a tax if it went to mental health services, 43% for supporting public safety departments, 35% for improving parks and amenities, 29% for improving transit and 23% for general fund expenditures.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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