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PTC tax survey results fall short in responses

A survey seeking input on property tax rates and spending priorities of Peachtree City government was not as popular as hoped.

A volunteer committee mailed out 1,200 invitations to randomly selected residents to participate in an online survey ... but only 210 responses came back after the two-week deadline expired.

The city’s Needs Assessment Committee was hoping to get 400 responses, which would have put the survey’s margin of error at plus/minus 5 percent. Since they barely got half, however, the margin of error increases to a bit under 7 percent.

At its meeting Thursday, the committee discussed the possibility of extending the survey and mailing out more invitations to reach their goal of 400 responses. But with doubts over whether the city would pay the additional expense for the mailing, the committee decided to declare the survey process complete.

The next step is the weighting of the survey to account for demographics, as 71 percent of the survey respondents were age 50 or over. Once that process is complete, the committee will prepare a presentation to make to the city council at its annual retreat in late March or early April.

Committee member John Dufresne said he was not surprised at the lack of citizen interest in the survey.

“I’ve been here 18 years,” Dufresne said. “... People in this city don’t give a damn, flat out, because you can’t get one-third of this city to vote in a municipal election and you can’t get anybody to show up to council meetings unless they’re getting their oxes gored at the time.”

Committee member Phil Prebor suggested seeing if another article in the newspaper would help bring in more responses if the survey were extended. Mayor Don Haddix noted that the survey has already been extensively covered in the paper, and beyond that he suspected that most of those who hadn’t responded already threw away their invitation containing the link to the survey.

“Knowing the way a lot of people think in Peachtree City, a lot never got opened and got into the trash can as soon as they looked at them, and they’re gone,” Haddix said.

The committee briefly discussed the idea of opening up the survey to all city residents but compiling the data separately, but that idea was scrapped, largely to make sure there is focus on the more reliable results of the main survey, which will be more statistically strong.

“It would be unfair to those who took it if we didn’t do anything with it,” Dufresne said.

Prebor said he would like to see how the results of the random survey compared to one opened up to all residents.

It was decided, however, that a separate survey would “muddy the waters” and potentially obscure the results from the randomized survey.

A subcommittee will work on preparing an executive summary for council along with a presentation for the retreat. Council members will also be presented with a copy of the survey results as well.

The survey ended up costing the city about $700. And while there was disappointment there were only 210 responses, the committee members were giddy and at times astonished at the survey results that were shown on the screen.

Some 92 percent of the surveys were filled out by property owners. Of the responses, 57 percent said their property tax level was “just right for the services I currently get” while another 31 percent said they felt taxes were too high based on the current services provided.

Asked about police staffing, 65 percent responded that the city should not hire any more officers, while 15 percent suggested the city reduce its force. Another 20 percent suggested the city hire additional officers.

A majority of respondents also favored not hiring six new full-time firefighters at a cost of about $32 per year in property taxes for the average home in Peachtree City, which is valued at $243,000 ... the baseline home price used for all property tax calculations in the survey.

More than two-thirds of respondents said the city should not build any more additional fire stations at a cost of about $100 a year in property taxes to operate the station and $45 per year for five years to build the station. Some 26 percent of respondents said one additional fire station should be built.

Respondents also strongly favored maintaining the city’s existing recreational facilities without expanding them further at 73 percent of the vote. And 64 percent urged the city to further increase recreation fees, which currently account for about 20 percent of the city’s recreation budget.

Also, 70 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay more in property taxes to complete $10 million in cart path connectivity projects. The results were split with 20 percent favoring $20 a year to complete the projects in 30 years, 22 percent favoring $30 a year to finish the projects in 20 years, and 28.3 percent favoring $60 a year so the projects could be completed in 10 years.

When it comes to economic development, 70 percent of survey respondents urged the city to fund its own economic development function instead of the current partnership with county officials through the Fayette County Development Authority.

While 29 percent of respondents said they wanted the city to cut services to reduce taxes by up to $100 a year, 71 percent said they would support an increase of either $50 or $100 a year to increase/improve city services.

Some 63 percent of respondents advocated the city pursuing a city-only sales tax or other revenues to offset increases in property tax increases, since it would cost the average homeowner about $97 a year to raise the millage rate by one mill, yielding $1.7 million in revenue.

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Opinion

Growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, I learned math many different ways, both in and out of school. When math was just numbers it was easy to understand.