Satisfaction with city services nearly the same as a year ago

Posted: November 24, 2001

Philadelphians are a tiny bit less satisfied with city services this year than they were in 2000, but they still seem much more pleased than they were five years ago.

In the latest annual citizen survey and report on city services, about 62 percent of 1,100 respondents rated themselves either "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with how the city was doing its job in fiscal year 2001, down from 63 percent in fiscal year 2000. That compares to only 41 percent who gave city services a positive review in 1997.

The survey, conducted every year since 1997 by a private polling firm, is part of a report that also documents how much service each of the city's 23 departments provided last year. It includes information on everything from how many potholes were filled by city crews (24,314) to how many items were checked out of the Free Library (6,668,923) to how many deer were killed in Fairmount Park (429).

Staff at the city budget office check the levels of service quarterly to ensure needs are being addressed. They use the annual survey to measure people's response.

"We use the survey as an indicator for the quality of our services and how happy people are," said Sharon Kershbaum, deputy budget director. "There's been a marked improvement from 1997 to today. In the past year, it's been pretty flat, but the trend is significant."

The survey this year found that people were happy with emergency medical services and fire protection, which respectively received satisfactory ratings of 86 percent and 84 percent. But the city got its lowest marks for street repair, with only 27 percent of respondents rating themselves satisfied.

With the release of the annual reports on services, city officials hope the public will feel satisfied with how tax dollars are spent.

"People pay taxes, and it goes into a black hole," Kershbaum said. "This is our way of saying 'Here's what you're getting for it.' "

The level of service in each department fluctuates based on a variety of factors, ranging from political priorities to the weather.

As part of Mayor Street's push to remove blight, the city last year knocked down 1,679 abandoned buildings, a 31 percent increase from fiscal year 2000.

City crews filled almost 70 percent more potholes this year than last, but that was because bad weather caused more damage to the streets. Despite the increased volume, the average time it took city crews to respond to potholes fell to 3.2 days from 3.6 days the year before.

The survey also asked people to rate the importance of different city services. Trash collection got the highest rating, with almost half of respondents putting it at the top of the list. Least important? The Department of Licenses and Inspections, which was rated as relevant by only .1 percent of those surveyed.

The full survey and report on city services is available on the city's Web site, at www.phila.gov.

Clea Benson's e-mail address is cbenson@phillynews.com.

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