Most Rolla residents surveyed by the ETC Institute this spring said they would be eager to back another attempt to permanently extend the recreation sales tax at a lower rate and use the money collected to pay for the operation of the parks and recreation department.

Most Rolla residents surveyed by the ETC Institute this spring said they would be eager to back another attempt to permanently extend the recreation sales tax at a lower rate and use the money collected to pay for the operation of the parks and recreation department.

"Fifty-three percent are very supportive," said Chris Tatham, ETC Institute, who presented the 2013 DirectionFinder survey results to the Rolla City Council Monday night. Another 15 percent are somewhat supportive. Twenty-two percent are not at all supportive.

Tatham stressed to the council that the survey is of residents, not necessarily registered voters, and a survey of potential voters might come back with a far different result.

The question asked was: "How supportive would you be of renewing a smaller parks sales tax if the funds were used to (1) help fund basic park maintenance and Centre operations, (2) help fund needed improvements to the park system, and (3) improve public safety by re-educating general tax support for parks?"

A related question was also asked: "Which of the following would you support to help ensure the long-term viability of the city's parks system?"

Replacing the half-cent recreation sales tax with a quarter-cent parks sales tax was supported by 41 percent.

Thirty percent said they would prefer to ask voters to increase the park property tax levy.
Higher park user fees were preferred by 26 percent.

Making additional budget cuts, even closing some parks, was preferred by 23 percent.
In the survey, 1,200 households were called; 400 completed surveys.

The level of confidence in the results is 95 percent, Tatham said, so each response can have a plus/minus 5 percent variation.

Other survey questions

Some other special questions were asked:

One asked about the residents' opinions of the smoke-free workplace ban that took effect Jan. 2, 2012. Sixty-one percent of the people supported the ordinance. Twenty-three percent said they would have preferred exceptions for the bars and bowling alley. Only 11 percent oppose the ordinance.

Fifty percent also noted that their visits to bars and restaurants have not changed in frequency with the adoption of the ban. Twenty-nine percent claimed they go out more, while 7 percent said they go out less.

Another question was about support of a local use tax that would require businesses outside the state to collect sales tax on the purchases of Rolla people. This is aimed particularly at Internet sales, which have an advantage over local businesses who must collect and remit the sales tax.

Sixty-percent of Rolla residents prefer to leave that advantage in place; they don't support a local use tax. Twenty-four percent said they would support passage of a local use tax to even the playing field between businesses with stores in Rolla and those with nothing but a digital image on the Internet.

Most of the questions on the DirectionFinder survey were about residents' opinions about city services.

Tatham, who said, "The city is, I think, my oldest client," explained that council members usually hear only from people with issues.

"Most people who are happy with things don't call the city," Tatham said. "If you don't hear from the vast majority, you may go in a wrong direction."

That's the purpose of the survey, he said, to find out what those silent people are thinking about the city.

"Residents generally have a positive perception of the city," he said. "The city's definitely moving in the right direction."

Moreover, he said, city employees "are setting standards in many areas, particularly customer service."

There are some areas that need to be monitored, primarily maintenance of public property, traffic control and code enforcement, but even those areas receive current high marks.

Eighty-two percent of the residents surveyed were positive about the overall quality of service by the city, and 72 percent gave positive ratings to questions about the value they receive from their tax dollars.

Tatham said respondents ranked services on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best and highest score.

Here's a look at overall satisfaction with city services. The first percentage are respondents who are "very satisfied" and the second are those who are "satisfied."

Police and fire services: 65 percent, 28 percent;
Refuse collection services: 63 percent, 28 percent;
Customer service received from city employees: 52 percent, 37 percent;
City water and sewer utilities, 44 percent, 37 percent;
City electric utility, 42 percent, 37 percent;
Parks and recreation programs/facilities, 42 percent, 36 percent;
Stormwater runoff management system, 34 percent, 40 percent;
City communication with the public, 27 percent; 44 percent;
Maintenance of streets/buildings/facilities, 28 percent; 38 percent;
Enforcement of city codes and ordinances, 28 percent; 38 percent;
Flow of traffic congestion management, 22 percent, 40 percent.

Tatham went through several other charts comparing Rolla's responses with national responses and Missouri/Kansas responses. In nearly all of them, Rolla ranked higher.

Other findings:

• Eighty-three percent of residents are "very satisfied" or "satisified" with the quality life in Rolla.

• Most people feel safe walking in Rolla, even after dark.

• They believe the best way to reduce crime is to increase police patrols.

• Fifty-nine percent of the people received information about the city from The Rolla Daily News. Fifty-three percent said they listen to the radio stations and 46 percent said they check the city homepage and other Internet sources.