Citizen Survey Says....Olathe Setting the Standard


Citizen Survey Says…Olathe Setting the Standard

The results of Olathe’s most recent citizen survey were presented to the Olathe City Council Tuesday evening, showing Olathe as one of the top performing cities in the metropolitan area in terms of resident satisfaction, continuing its streak of dramatic improvement.

The survey, DirectionFinder®, is conducted by ETC Institute and included responses from over 1,200 Olathe residents collected in October of 2010. The survey has a +/-2.8% margin of error. Olathe is one of over 500 cities and counties in the United States using DirectionFinder to gauge citizen satisfaction and priorities.

The survey results showed Olathe’s overall satisfaction at a record level, up four points from 2009. Since 2000, Olathe’s composite satisfaction index has increased from a baseline of 100 to 130 for 2010. In contrast, the metropolitan area’s composite index fell from 100 in 2000 to 92 in 2010.

According to Chris Tatham, ETC Institute Vice President, Olathe continues to set the standard for the delivery of city services. “Olathe’s relative improvement over the past ten years is the best of any city in ETC Institute’s database,” he said. Tatham noted that the City had climbed from being just average when the survey started in 2000 to a metropolitan and national leader in citizen satisfaction. He said, “Of all the cities we survey, none have come close to seeing the type of improvement as Olathe.” Tatham attributed Olathe’s success to several factors including being open and transparent with City finances, making strategic cuts while focusing limited revenue on resident priorities, and consistently innovating and finding better ways to work and engage residents. Tatham also noted that the economy has had a negative impact on perception of local governments, but Olathe stands in sharp contrast.

Olathe ranks at the top in the Kansas City metropolitan area in seven of the major categories surveyed, including the overall quality of city services. Tatham noted Olathe’s dedicated focus on citizen priorities and resident engagement. “Olathe has made painstaking efforts to be transparent with its budget and involve residents in decision making,” he said. While Olathe saw marked improvements across the board, Tatham singled out two significant increases – quality of city services and value for tax dollars and fees. Tatham said it shows residents feel tax dollars are being invested wisely and responsibly, especially given the significant budget and staffing cuts the City has made. He said, “Residents expectations have been met during the economic challenge, and there is an overwhelmingly positive feeling about the City.”

Traffic flow and congestion management continue to be a top priority for the future along with maintenance of city streets, buildings, and facilities.

According to City Manager Michael Wilkes, the survey provides instant feedback from residents that helps guide decision making and spending. The tool also gives employees a sense of pride. Wilkes said, “Knowing their services are viewed by our customers as the best in the area and one of the best in the country is a source of pride, and they will continue working incredibly hard to maintain that status.” Wilkes noted several examples from this month’s winter storm. “Just this month we saw plow drivers voluntarily come in the night before a major snow to sleep on cots, so they could be available and on time to clear streets, and solid waste drivers completing routes during the most significant snow storm in recent memory,” he said.

Key findings from Tatham’s presentation include:

  • Olathe is at or near the top nearly every category in the metropolitan area.
  • Olathe measured first in overall quality of city services (91% compared to 56% in KC metro and 57% U.S. average) along with six other major categories.
  • Olathe is moving in the right direction while other cities struggle to meet citizen expectations.
  • Olathe improved in 104 of 115 categories despite the fact that the City reduced its workforce by 20% and has drastically reduced its operating budget.

Complete survey results are available in the Accountable Government section of the City’s website,