What’s your level of happiness in terms of living in Sedona?
The city would like to know. For the first time in a decade, the city of Sedona is initiating a random quality of life survey to residents. A similar survey was sent out in 2007, 2004 and 2002.
The Sedona City Council approved moving forward with the survey at a cost of $15,000 during its Tuesday, July 25, meeting. The city hopes to have the survey sent out in September and have results completed by December.
The previous three city surveys were conducted by National Citizen Survey. City staff debated the pros and cons of again going with that company — which has its own set of questions — or keep it in-house and do it themselves.
Citizen Engagement Coordinator Lauren Browne said the benefit of having staff do it was that the questions could be catered specifically to Sedona. However, the downside would be the amount of staff time needed and it leaves room for potential bias with the questioning.
Council agreed and approved using NCS. Browne pointed out that while NCS has its own set of questions, Sedona is able to request a handful of questions to be added at the end of the survey.
“Initially, for the customized questions, we’re thinking of asking people about which current and upcoming City Council priorities are most important to them and where residents go to find their information,” Browne said following the meeting. “I’m going to talk with staff this week to iron out what those customized questions will be and I’ll send the list to City Council and ask them if they have any suggestions or concerns about them before they’re finalized.”
According to a city report, the potential benefits of having results from a current survey are:
- The ability to make more informed decisions.
- The ability to note trends between the three surveys to see if perceptions of community issues have progressed, regressed or remained the same.
- The ability to compare our results to those of other communities to help gauge their performance.
Ten years ago, a pre-survey postcard was sent to 1,200 random addresses notifying them they would soon be receiving surveys. A reminder letter and the same survey were sent to those households two weeks later. Of those mailed, 278 were undeliverable for a variety of reasons.
However, 536 were returned, or 58 percent, minus those that could not be delivered. NCS reported that a typical survey has a 25 to 40 percent participation rate. The questions in past surveys have offered four answers following each question — excellent, good, fair and poor.
One question in 2007, for example, asked the survey taker what their overall quality of life is like in Sedona. Thirty percent said excellent, 54 percent good, 14 percent fair and 2 percent said poor.
“The survey is a way to check in with our customers and get general feedback on a whole host of issues,” City Manager Justin Clifton said. “In business, you know whether or not you’re serving your customers by whether or not they keep buying your product or service. One of the things that makes the work of local governments challenging is that we represent all kinds of different customers with different interests and we only hear from a small percentage of them.”
A community survey is a way to get general feedback on big issues like quality of life, the services and facilities the city offers and future priorities, he said.
“If we repeat the survey periodically over time, we also get a sense of where we’re making progress or whether we need to shift priorities and/ or resources,” Clifton said. “We will use the survey results as one of many tools to guide our goal and priority setting sessions and in the development of our budget. We will also use it to guide operations and set goals for improvement.”
Results from the survey will be compared to communities of similar size. Browne said comparing Sedona to communities this size is really helpful to be able to have more of an apples to apples comparison.
“For example, while it would be useful to know if raising a family here is more difficult than, for example, raising a family in Marana [Arizona], it would also be equally telling to know of the comparisons to other cities in our same population group,” she said. “I think what it comes down to is comparing to cities in Arizona and countrywide is just as useful as also comparing ourselves to communities of the same size.”