Survey may help determine city's 2003 budget

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— As many as 6,500 residents of Steamboat Springs and the surrounding area, as well as second-home owners, will be asked within the next few months to give opinions on the services the city offers.

The city of Steamboat Springs wants to know what residents think of the job different city departments are doing and how often its various facilities are used.

"The basic purpose is to find out how well we do each thing and (if people use it)," City Manager Paul Hughes said.

It will also help the City Council put together the city's 2003 budget.

At a retreat Friday, City Council members voiced concerns about the survey, stemming in part from alleged "ballot-stuffing" during the administration of the Citizen Survey taken in 1999. To make the survey as scientific as possible, the city may ask the company hired by the city after a competitive process, RRC Associates, to conduct phone interviews instead of simply mailing the surveys to city and county addresses. That would probably cut down the number of surveys the city could administer but could ensure greater accuracy.

The survey will also be conducted with the intention of getting specific answers about the city's successes and shortfalls as opposed to asking broader questions about local priorities, as was the case with the citizen survey.

Some sample questions, taken from a similar survey done in Erie, focused on people's satisfaction with the city and its services and asked them to help the city make some big decisions about future capital projects. One question reads:

"Listed below are some projects that are being considered in Erie for which the town could allocate financial resources in the future. After each one, please tell us if you think it is very important, somewhat important, probably not needed, or definitely not needed. If you feel neutral, please say so."

The survey goes on to list 19 projects that could be constructed in the future.

The Steamboat survey will cost the city between $18,000 and $20,000 based on preliminary estimates, though the council may choose to spend more to ensure reliable results, Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said.

Council members said they also wanted to see questions about the city's tax structure to help the city determine whether to put a tax ballot question before the voters next November. In the next three weeks, the council will be bringing DuBord questions they want answered.

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