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PTC budget survey: you may not be invited

A citizen committee studying how much Peachtree City residents are willing to pay for city services is planning to conduct a survey that will stand up as a valid statistical analysis for the City Council to consider.

In doing so, however, there will be no way for all citizens to voice their opinions. Instead, the committee plans to randomly select a certain number of respondents from each neighborhood, which includes subdivisions along with condominium and apartment complexes.

The goal is to get at least 400 responses, which will give a margin of error of plus/minus 5 percent, committee members said last week. Ideally there will be an opportunity to get even more citizens involved in the survey, as 800 responses gets the margin of error down to plus/minus 3 percent, according to committee vice chair Robert Black.

The committee currently is planning to mail invitations to take the survey to the randomly selected addresses, but no timetable has been set as of yet, in part due to questions about the committee’s ability to expend city funds to pay for the mailings.

The plan is for the survey respondents to fill it out online so tabulating results is easier compared to a paper survey which also would add further expense.

Further discussions on the survey are expected Thursday at the committee’s next meeting at council chambers in City Hall from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

At the Nov. 29 meeting there was discussion of hosting a separate survey that anyone could take online, but there was some worry that doing so would cause problems helping the committee draw its conclusions.

One of the reasons for using a scientific survey method is so the results can be “more valid” and thus would be more difficult for council members to dismiss, which is a problem that has been identified with previous citywide surveys on budget matters.

“The only reason for doing a self-directed survey is to make people feel good,” said committee member Paul Lentz. “That may be setting expectations we have no intention of fulfilling.”

There was some discussion about whether the survey should target city business owners, and while no final decision was made, much of the talk centered on how differently they may perceive city services compared to a home owner or renter.

The goal is for the survey to be wrapped up by early spring so the results can help council during the budget planning process and the annual City Council retreat.

The committee has posted a number of financial documents related to the budget on the city’s website at www.peachtree-city.org/needs. Also on that page are links to the committee’s minutes and a link that allows residents to send emails to each committee member.

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