ZEPHYRHILLS — Folks here really like their garbage men.
For the fifth straight year, the city's sanitation workers are kings of the trash heap when it comes to making people happy, beating out eight other departments and all of the city leaders for top marks in a citizen satisfaction survey.
Those responding to the survey gave the sanitation department a 98 percent approval rating; the fire department was a close second, at 97 percent. The library came in third, at 93 percent, and showed the greatest improvement — 9.3 percent — in making people happy since last year's survey. City government overall pulled in an 88 percent satisfaction rating.
Management analyst Larry Strickland presented the survey results to the City Council on Monday evening, noting a 36 percent return rate of the 1,200 surveys sent out in January. Those responding were slightly older, by 16 percent, than those who turned in surveys last year, he said.
The city started the survey in 2007, with graduate students from the University of South Florida's public administration program analyzing the results.
Strickland found it "quite remarkable" that the sanitation department continues to rank first with residents each year.
"That may be because that's the one set of people they see all the time," said council member Jodi Wilkeson.
A key question on the survey asked residents if they think there should be more commercial use of the city's airport. Thirty-nine percent said no, with 34 percent answering yes. Most concerning, Strickland said, was that 27 percent said they didn't know.
"This reveals a lack of awareness of the city airport," Strickland said, adding that next year's survey question should be more specific about what it means to commercialize the airport.
The survey also asked residents if they would support a tax increase in order to maintain current levels of service. Nearly 55 percent said no. But that percentage came down from last year, when 58 percent answered no. The percentage of those saying yes rose from 28 percent in 2011 to 35 percent this year.
In other business, council members gave final approval to the annexation of 32 properties with voluntary annexation agreements and initial approval for annexing seven more parcels.