Olathe residents continue to be overwhelmingly satisfied with their city, giving it the highest rating in the country among towns of its size for the quality of its city services, according to a new survey.
The ETC Institute, which polled more than 2,000 Olathe households last year, delivered the results of the survey Tuesday to the Olathe City Council.
Chris Tatham, the institute’s CEO, said 94 percent of respondents reported being satisfied with public services, well above the Kansas City metro average of 56 percent and the U.S. average of 49 percent.
The highest satisfaction was with public safety agencies (95 percent), while the lowest satisfaction was with management of traffic flow and congestion (60 percent).
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In fact, respondents identified improving traffic flow and congestion as what should be the city’s main emphasis during the next two years, followed by better maintenance of streets and buildings and continuing the quality of police, fire and emergency medical services.
Ninety-three percent of Olathe residents told ETC they were satisfied with the city’s overall quality of life, up from 91 percent in 2016 and above the regional average of 75 percent and the national average of 73 percent.
The percentage of respondents satisfied with the city’s overall image dipped slightly from 86 percent in 2016 to 85 percent last year, but it remained above the regional average of 65 percent and national average of 64 percent.
As a place to live and a place to raise children, 97 percent said they were satisfied with Olathe, reflecting small gains in each measure. The gain in respondents saying they would buy their next home in Olathe was greater, increasing from 82 percent to 89 percent. Eighty-seven percent said they were satisfied with Olathe as a place to work, up from 85 percent.
Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were satisfied with the leadership of the city’s elected officials, unchanged from a year ago, and 73 percent said they were satisfied with the value received for the amount they paid in taxes and fees, an increase from 71 percent the year before. By comparison, only 43 percent of metro area respondents and 38 percent of respondents nationwide are satisfied with the value they receive from taxes and fees in their cities.
A rare instance where respondent satisfaction declined significantly was for the city’s perceived efforts to promote diversity in the community, which decreased from 65 percent to 60 percent.
Tatham said this has become a “sensitive issue nationally” in surveys.
Also, the percentage of respondents satisfied with maintenance and preservation of downtown Olathe dipped from 75 percent to 67 percent last year, which Tatham attributed to disruptions caused by the beginning effort to build the new Johnson County Courthouse next to City Hall.
ETC, which is based in Olathe, has performed the surveys annually for Olathe since 2000. It performs similar surveys for hundreds of cities across the country.
City Manager Michael Wilkes and the council uses the annual survey not just to gauge the effectiveness of city operations but also to make budget decisions and award bonuses to city employees.
The entire 2017 citizen survey results are available at https://www.olatheks.org/home/showdocument?id=3762.
In other business, Mayor Michael Copeland and members of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Fund handed out more than $151,000 raised this past holiday season to 16 Olathe charities. The fund included more than $27,000 raised by city schoolchildren through the “Pennies for Shoes” drive, which provided $24,000 to Center of Grace’s program of providing shoes to needy children.
The council also voted to terminate the redevelopment agreement and tax increment financing deal for the Southgate development at Interstate 35 and U.S. 169 Highway. The tax increment financing, or TIF, agreement was passed in 2002 and was designed to reimburse the developers, Equity Associates LLC, for $12.8 million in development costs over 20 years by diverting incremental gains in property taxes on the site and a half-percent of sales tax generated within the development.
The TIF has repaid the development costs early, requiring the agreement be terminated and those taxes to begin flowing to city coffers again.
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