MISSOULA – A new citizens’ survey shows Missoula residents are content, and especially appreciative of their fire and police protection. But they also want city leaders to pay more attention to improving and fixing Missoula streets.
Those are the major takeaways from the first Citizen Survey the mayor’s office has conducted in seven years, gauging priorities as the city develops next year’s budget.
The research, conducted with help from the University of Montana, shows nearly 80 percent of the respondents rating their "quality of life" as "excellent" or "good", even if they aren’t making much money.
"So even folks making less than $15,000 in total household income, 70-percent of them are still rating their quality of life in Missoula as excellent or good," said City of Missoula Citizens Service Manager Jessica Miller. "That quality of life does improve as income improves, but even for the lower-income brackets we don’t have folks saying that their quality of life is terrible. We don’t have a significant portion saying that their quality of life terrible."
That’s not to say there isn’t criticism. 23 percent of those surveyed are worried about housing issues as Missoula prices continue to climb for both purchased homes and rentals. 11 percent say Missoula taxes are "too high" and just over nine percent say the city’s infrastructure needs work. And even with complaints about taxes, most "strongly support" spending more on streets and roads.
Mayor Engen says the input will set the stage for the new budget.
"I’m going to be paying attention to streets and roads. I’m going to be paying attention to housing," Engen said. "The places where we have lower satisfaction we’re going to learn more about that, I hope, and try to start to address those issues through our budget process."
Engen says even though people indicate they would "pay more" for improvements, that "doesn’t presume" he’ll call for tax increases.
The survey will be followed up with a work shop to gather more input next month.