PTC tax survey near completion

Invitations to be mailed late this week

A citizen survey on property taxes, and the Peachtree City services funded by those taxes, was in a “testing” mode this past weekend.

To make sure the questions are easily understood, the Peachtree City Needs Assessment Committee will have about a dozen or more people take the survey. Because the committee has been waist-high in government budget lingo for the past several months, there was concern that releasing a raw, untested survey might not bring the results the committee is seeking.

Each committee member will enlist a few friends to take the survey over the next week. The resulting feedback will be digested at the Thursday meeting of the committee so any final changes can be made before the survey goes live.

Because the committee is seeking a scientifically valid statistical sampling of the population, the survey will not be available to anyone who wants to take it. Such self-selected surveys can’t be relied on from a statistical standpoint, the committee has learned.

Instead, about 1,200 different households will receive a survey invitation in the mail that directs them to take the survey online. The randomly-selected residents would get the survey invitation in an envelope with “Peachtree City Tax Survey” in red ink on the front to make it stand out among other mail pieces.

The hope is to get a minimum of 400 responses to the survey, which will give a margin of error of plus/minus 5 percent.

The committee wants the survey results by the first of March so they can be presented at the first city council workshop on the budget. The plan is to get the survey invitations in the mail late next week, particularly so families heading out of town for the winter school break will have more than a week to respond to the survey.

Several of the questions provide an actual dollar figure of what each department costs in property taxes for the average home, currently valued at $243,000. Armed with that information, it should be easy for residents to determine if they feel the city is spending too much, just enough or not enough for services such as police, fire, recreation and public works.

The survey also asks about whether the city should hire more police officers or firefighters, and also whether it should build any new fire stations. Another question asks if citizens could stomach paying additional property taxes to implement about $10 million in cart path connectivity projects, and how much they might be willing to pay.

Mayor Don Haddix, who formed the committee to look at city services and costs, suggested at Thursday’s committee meeting that instead of calculating the cost of services by each homeowner, to calculate it by dividing the costs up among each user.

But there was no stomach for changing the numbers, particularly as committee member John Dufresne noted that the user data “shouldn’t have any effect on our mission to look at the property taxes paid per household, not per user.”

Committee member Paul Lentz noted that some 38 percent of the city budget is projected to be paid for with property tax revenues, and to him the most important thing was that the survey treated all departments consistently.

Haddix also asked if the committee had a plan to submit a report based on the results of the survey. But the consensus was to let the numbers speak for themselves and simply have committee members available to council if there are any questions when the data is presented.

The committee voted unanimously to adopt the survey with several minor changes, and the hope is that with solid feedback prior to next Thursday’s meeting, it will be ready to go and the invitations can be mailed.

“Come ready to stuff some envelopes,” Lentz said.

The committee on Feb. 7 is also expected to finalize the list of places where promotional ads will be posted such as grocery stores, churches and city buildings such as the library.

After the committee’s vote to adopt the survey question, Haddix congratulated the group.

“That is undoubtedly the biggest vote and decision you have made to date,” Haddix said. “Congratulations: you have gotten somewhere. Don’t underestimate that vote, the power of that vote.”

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