ZEPHYRHILLS — Overall, city residents are pleased with their elected officials and city manager, satisfied with the services they are receiving for their tax dollars and have few complaints about living here, according to a citizen satisfaction survey conducted by University of South Florida Masters of Public Administration program students.
At the same time, they don't want a tax hike to maintain the same level of services, aren't entirely sold on efforts to beautify U.S. 301 and worry about budgetary restrictions and crime-prevention challenges.
The survey was created with the help of City Manager Steve Spina in the fall and sent out earlier this year to a random sampling of 1,000 city residents. More than 250 were returned and of those, about 100 were analyzed for the report released this week.
About 63 percent of the respondents were over 55 years old and about the same amount were retired. The 12-question survey was anonymous.
"They're always pretty helpful to us," Spina said. "It helps us gauge what's on people's minds."
While satisfaction with city departments remains relatively high, residents are less confident in those departments from year's past.
Of the survey respondents, 74 percent are satisfied with police services, down from 87 percent in 2007; 72 percent are satisfied with the city Fire Department, down from 97 percent in 2007; and 55 percent of library users are content with services, compared to 78 percent four years ago.
"I don't know if that's because of cuts in services are showing up or if people are viewing government more cynically," Spina said about the decline in satisfaction with city departments. "I think we need to go back to the basics here and look at core functions."
Spina said he will meet with department heads next week to look over what he considers the most surprising of the results.
Residents said chief among their concerns are the challenges the city is facing with crime prevention, traffic congestion, as well how to handle budget restrictions and population growth.
While they say they are in favor of the city's plans to expand business opportunities around major intersections on U.S. 301, 33 percent of survey respondents — the lowest support rating for community redevelopment questions — said they didn't support enhancing landscaping along that corridor. Still, 46 percent supported it and the vast majority of respondents were in favor of seeking grant funding for such beautification projects.
Another notable that came out of the survey, Spina said, is more people are asking for online pay capabilities for utilities when in recent years many residents have resisted that idea.
"I think more and more people are becoming computer savvy," he said, adding that online billing/paying is something he'd like the city to do.
He hopes to have a discussion about the results with the City Council on Monday night when he formally presents them with the report.