Troy City Council reviews resident survey results

Police and fire services, parks, street conditions top priority list

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published April 29, 2021

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TROY — Troy City Council members met April 12 to review a series of results stemming from a recent resident survey conducted by Cobalt Community Research and distributed to the community in January.

City officials partnered with Cobalt in 2020 to organize and conduct a series of three community surveys — a library survey, completed in 2020; a resident survey, completed in February; and a business survey still to come.

The survey was randomly dispersed to 2,000 community residents, Cobalt Community Research Executive Director William SaintAmour said, and 492 residents responded. The margin of error for the study was plus or minus 4.4%; 255 other residents voluntarily took the survey as well, resulting in a total of 747 submissions.

With benchmark data coming from 2020 alone, SaintAmour said COVID-19 may have fluctuated numbers more than in a normal year.

“First of all, you did really well. You outperformed most of the benchmarks. There are five areas that were particularly closely linked with overall satisfaction and those outcome behaviors. These aren’t necessarily low scores, just things that have the strongest relationship with satisfaction and those outcomes,” SaintAmour said, adding that those five areas are local government management, police services, taxes, schools, and parks and recreation.

While police and fire services, schools, and government satisfaction received high scores from residents, other areas — taxes and how they’re spent, and parks and recreation amenities — received lower scores and sat higher on the list of items residents would most like to see improved.

“People want to see more walkable opportunities within the community. They want to see a walkable downtown. Green space came up in the survey, as well as just a much richer diversity of small, independent restaurants and shops, to really go around and experience the diversity the community has and have the opportunity for some of that to be translated into culinary and shopping experiences,” SaintAmour said.

Troy scored a 72 out of 100 on local government satisfaction, compared to the 62 score for the entire United States; Troy’s community satisfaction score was a 73, compared to a 61 for the entire U.S.; and Troy’s professionalism of staff item scored an 81, as opposed to the 65 for the United States.

Troy came close to outperforming the private sector when it comes to a person’s satisfaction, SaintAmour said.

“The private sector can pick a very specific market, with a very specific kind of product or service, whereas the public sector needs to serve everyone in the community. They need to provide a very broad range of services. The fact that you’re right up there is something to be proud of.”

Taxes, however, were a different story for Troy, but SaintAmour said he wasn’t surprised by the results the survey showed.

“Typically, (taxes are) always one of the lowest scoring areas for communities we work with. No exception for Troy, but your scores are still well above the benchmarks. The area that was particularly low was on how tax dollars are used, so I think there’s some opportunity for you here to do a little bit more intentional message about how that’s done.”

Mayor Pro Tem Theresa Brooks agreed that the city could do a better job of informing its residents how tax dollars will be used to support city amenities and other needs.

“That really reminds me and tells me we need to do a better job of really making it more clear to our residents what we’re doing with their tax dollars and the budget,” Brooks said, adding that she believes residents voted to pass the library millage in 2020 because they were informed. “Obviously, the budget is more complicated than the library millage in a lot of ways, but we still can do a better job in that way.”

As city officials and City Council members entered into budget talks for the 2021-22 fiscal year, Assistant City Manager Robert Bruner said, council members will begin to see some of the themes identified by the survey come to the table for discussion. In the fall, the city plans to move forward with more specific project discussions, he said.

“We’ve also enabled our marketing coordinator in-office to prepare an infographic of the capital projects. It’s designed very well, and we’ll be able to use it whether it’s on our websites or you want to use it with residents,” City Manager Mark Miller added.

While residents want to be better informed about where and how their tax dollars are spent, still roughly 66% of survey respondents said they would be willing to support new capital projects with additional funding. Most residents indicated they would support a project with an added $5-$10 per month.

The capital projects that rose to the top of the survey results were better and more walking/biking trails, improved street maintenance, upgrades to the farmers market, and the construction of a new winter sports complex.

“I think it’s fascinating that trails and pathways have continued to be the big, hot item for the city. This goes back years and years, prior to my time on council. I love that we’re continuing to work on that,” Mayor Ethan Baker said. “I just hope we can see what an important issue it is for our community, (and) we can keep that going, recognizing the challenges we face from space and the issues that come up when we do try to go through neighborhoods.

“You can see how much our community is longing for that, so I want to make sure that stays a priority.”

Overall, Baker said he’s proud of what he and his fellow council members have been able to do for the community.

“Obviously, our scores are high. Now we don’t want to screw it up, right? We’re at a certain level … but there’s always room for improvement. I had a resident tell me, ‘You seem to pat yourself on the back for all the work you all do,’ and I heard that resident very clearly,” Baker said. “Yes, I’m proud of the work we do, but that doesn’t mean there’s not always the opportunity for us to continue to improve and to grow. It just makes it harder when the margin to grow is so small.”

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