Board of Directors Regular Meeting Agenda


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Meeting Date: 02/27/2019  

SUBJECT MATTER:
Receive, consider and act upon a presentation of the 2018 Residential Survey; 
FISCAL IMPACT:
The Woodlands Township Board of Directors spent approximately $44,000 in late 2016 and early 2017 to conduct the 2016 Residential Survey. Because the results were presented in 2017, the next survey was anticipated in 2019, and therefore no funds were budgeted for the survey in 2018. The total amount spent was $39,883.
BACKGROUND:
The Woodlands Township traditionally conducts a survey of The Woodlands residents approximately every two years for purposes of obtaining resident opinions of services and for use as a budgeting and planning tool. The survey helps the Township to gauge public opinion of The Woodlands Township and its programs.
 
In 2016, the survey document was substantially revised from previous surveys, as directed by the Board and Survey Task Force, and included various changes including, but not limited to, the addition of incorporation- related questions and the removal of some questions previously used for benchmarking purposes. The survey was administered by U.S. Mail to households in The Woodlands.
 
The Woodlands Township has traditionally issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for these survey services. In 2016 an RFP was issued and proposals were received from eight companies: Creative Consumer Research (CCR) of Stafford, Texas; Kent State University (KSU) of Kent, Ohio; Public Research Group (PRG) of Naperville, IL; NewGen Strategies & Solutions (NGSS) of Lakewood, CO; Wyoming Survey & Analysis Center (WSAC) of Laramie, WY; Lexicon & Lin (LL) of Ogden, UT; ETC Institute (ETC) of Olathe, KS; and National Research Center (NRC) of Boulder, CO. The Board awarded the bid to conduct the 2016 Resident Survey to National Research Center (NRC) in the amount of $40,698.
 
The results of the 2016 Residential Survey were presented in February 2017 and are available online at: http://thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/7537
 
Based on the historical record of approximately every two years, The Woodlands Township did not budget for a survey in 2018 but staff was planning to do so for the 2019 Budget. However, at a Board meeting on June 21, 2018, Directors indicated the need for the survey in the Fall of 2018.
 
At The Woodlands Township Board of Directors meeting on June 27, 2018, discussion was held related to the upcoming survey for the Incorporation Study survey, as well as the cost and timing of preparing and releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Resident Survey. 
 
The Board of Directors authorized the President/General Manager, at the June 27, 2018 Board meeting, to negotiate a price with National Research Center, Inc. (NRC), the company that produced the survey in 2016 and 2017, and return to the Board in July for final determination.
 
NRC is a leading research and evaluation firm focusing on the information requirements of the public sector, including local and state governments, the federal government, special districts, non-profit agencies, health care providers and foundations.
 
In July 19, 2018, the Board reviewed the survey proposal, the timeline and instrument to ensure the questions included were relevant and appropriate.

For 2018, NRC delivered a proposal with two price breaks as described below, utilizing methodology that administers the survey primarily by mail with an online response option.
 
Option 1) 2,500 surveys, about 620 returned, 4% margin of error, at a total not to exceed the cost of
$32,017
Option 2) 4,500 surveys, about 1,100 returned, 3% margin of error, at a total not to exceed the cost of
$39,883
 
The timeline provided by NRC for this proposal included:
  1. Notice to Proceed sent on August 3, 2018. 
  2. Survey materials mailed September 14 to 28, 2018.
  3. A draft report received on November 30, 2018.
  4. Final report received on December 14, 2018.
 
The Woodlands Township 2018 Resident Survey provided residents the opportunity to indicate what they like best about living in The Woodlands, what issues face The Woodlands, the importance of and their satisfaction with local government services, as well as indicating their perspectives on covenants and deed restrictions. The survey also permitted residents to share their priorities for the community’s future.
 
Each selected household was contacted three times over the course of data collection. First, a postcard was mailed notifying residents that they had been chosen to participate in the survey. A survey packet followed in the mail one week after the postcard and a second survey packet was sent about one week after the first packet. Out of 4,500 total households that received the survey, there were 1,020 respondents to the mailed questionnaire, yielding a response rate of 24%.
 
The Woodlands Township has also administered other resident surveys in the past, so comparisons could be made between the 2016 and 2018 responses and those from prior years, when available. The 2018 results also were compared to those of other communities across the nation, in Texas, in the west south central region of the nation and with populations of 75,000 to 150,000, made possible through NRC’s benchmark database. This database contains resident perspectives gathered in citizen surveys from more than 500 jurisdictions across the U.S., including cities and counties.
 
HIGHLIGHTS
The Woodlands Township 2018 Resident Survey contained a series of questions that reflected either directly or indirectly on the Township’s progress within several themes. The report of results and the highlights below are loosely organized around themes also outlined on the survey instrument.
 
GOVERNANCE
  • Residents of The Woodlands were pleased with entities that are considered part of the local government and several of these ratings improved since 2016. Nearly all residents gave very good or good ratings to the school system. Further, about 9 in 10 positively rated The Woodlands Township government, their County (Montgomery or Harris) government and their Municipal Utility District and these ratings increased from 2016 to 2018. Ratings of the school system were similar to the national benchmark comparisons.
  •  About three-quarters of survey participants were very satisfied or satisfied with the amount of influence and input they had in local Township decision-making, an increase since 2016. About one-quarter indicated that they were not satisfied with their amount of influence. 
  • About 9 in 10 respondents rated the services the Township provides TODAY in terms of value for the money as good or very good. This rating remained stable from 2016 to 2018.
  •  As in 2016, the issues most frequently mentioned as the most important ones facing The Woodlands were related to traffic, mobility and public transportation. When asked to write in their own words what they felt was the most important issue facing residents of The Woodlands, about 3 in 10 respondents made a comment related to traffic, mobility and public transportation, about 2 in 10 remarked about City incorporation/annexation by Houston and about 1 in 10 mentioned too much development/overpopulation, about 1 in 10 named taxes/affordability or and approximately 1 in 10 answered with comments related to public safety.
 
COMMUNITY
  •  The aspect of living in The Woodlands most appreciated by residents was again its appearance and the beauty of the area/trees/greenery. As in 2016, residents were asked to indicate what they liked best about living in The Woodlands and could choose as many items as they wished from a list of 12 items. Nearly all residents (88%) liked The Woodlands’ appearance/beauty of area/trees/greenery, about 8 in 10 liked the parks/woods/pathways/open space and about 7 in 10 chose the quality of life/lifestyle, “it’s safe” or appearance/aesthetic/neat/clean. Six in ten residents most appreciated that The Woodlands is quiet/peaceful or the shopping and restaurants. About half of residents selected each of the following: schools/quality of education, family atmosphere, or nice/friendly neighbors/people, while 4 in 10 chose conveniently located. About 4% of respondents wrote in an “other” response.
  •  When asked to write in their own words how they would like for The Woodlands to improve in the future, one-quarter of residents wrote a comment related to improving mobility and traffic flow, which reflects a slight increase since 2016. About 1 in 10 mentioned controlling/slowing down growth and development, preserving and enhancing natural areas or reforming local government/lowering taxes. Fewer than 1 in 10 remarked about some other potential area of improvement.
 
TOWNSHIP SERVICES
  • Of 17 services evaluated, eight were considered “very good” or “good” by 90% or more of respondents.These included the fire department, emergency medical services, parks & recreational facilities, recreation programs, garbage collection, attracting businesses to create jobs, crime prevention and recycling collection. All but two of the 17 services (improving mobility and reducing congestion as well as swimming pools) were rated as very good or good by at least 7 in 10 residents. Compared to 2016, ratings improved in 2018 for neighborhood watch and recreation programs; no service ratings declined.
  •  As might be expected, public safety services were considered important by nearly all respondents. Crime prevention, emergency medical services and the fire department were considered important by 99% of respondents. Services considered important by about 7 in 10 residents or less included influencing growth in and around The Woodlands, recreation programs, attracting business to create jobs and swimming pools. Residents in 2018 rated sustaining our trees and natural environment, planning for the future and recycling collection as more important than in 2016.
  • Four services on which The Woodlands may wish to focus improvements were improving mobility and reducing congestion, sustaining trees and natural environment, planning for the future and maintaining medians, pathways, streetscapes, parks and other common areas. These services were considered important by 88% or more respondents (the average proportion of respondents rating the 17 services listed as important) but for which quality evaluation was considered very good or good by less than 88% of respondents (the average proportion of respondents rating each service as good or very good).
  •  As in 2016, where benchmark comparisons could be made, most services had ratings similar to the national benchmarks. Fire department, emergency medical services, garbage collection, recycling collection, covenants/deed restrictions enforcement, recreation programs and crime prevention were similar to the national benchmark comparisons. The rating for speed limit and traffic signal enforcement was lower than the national benchmark comparisons. 
LAW ENFORCEMENT/SAFETY
  • When describing their current feelings of safety in The Woodlands in comparison to their feelings of safety two years ago, 15% of residents felt safer, 3 in 10 felt less safe and slightly more than half felt the same level of safety. An open-ended follow-up question asked about the factors affecting their answer; about one-third of residents wrote in a comment related to hearing about or experiencing more crime recently, and 15% remarked on population increase/development leading to more or a similar amount of crime or not experiencing crime/hearing about fewer crimes. One in 10 commented that the police had done a good job/noticed more police presence or that crime levels seemed stable.
  •  When asked in their own words about their suggestions for improving Law Enforcement, 32% of respondents commented on the need to increase law enforcement visibility/have more patrols. Thirteen percent felt that traffic enforcement needed to be improved, and twelve percent suggested expanding the police/sheriff force. Fifteen percent felt that no improvements to Law Enforcement were needed.
 
COVENANTS/DEED RESTRICTIONS
  • About 9 in 10 survey respondents said covenants and deed restrictions had been very or somewhat important to them when deciding to live in The Woodlands. This level was similar to what was reported in 2016.
  •  About 9 in 10 residents felt that the enforcement of covenants and deed restrictions had been very or somewhat effective in achieving the desired standards.This level remained stable since the previous survey.
  •  When asked about the effectiveness of covenant and deed restrictions enforcement, about 9 in 10 thought they were enforced very or somewhat effectively. This proportion was also the same as in 2016.
 
COMMUNICATIONS
  • When presented with a list of 16 possible information sources and asked to mark all of the items they used as primary sources of information about their neighborhood or village, 6 in 10 respondents indicated they used The Woodlands Community Magazine, half used Community Impact Magazine and 4 in 10 used The Villager or word of mouth – friends/neighbors as primary information sources. About 3 in 10 used the Township website as a primary information source, about 1 in 10 or fewer residents used each of the remaining items as a primary information source and about 5% of residents wrote in an information source other than those listed.
  •  As in 2016, slightly less than half of residents had communicated with a member of Township staff in the two years prior to the survey, while slightly more than half had not. Prior to 2016, contact with Township staff had increased steadily each year since 2010.
  •  When asked to rate their overall communications with the Township division or divisions with whom they had had contact, about 9 in 10 residents gave very good or good ratings to the Fire Department, Law Enforcement, Garbage Collection/Environmental, Parks and Recreation and Accounting. At least 8 in 10 respondents gave very good or good ratings to communications from Neighborhood Watch and Covenants and Deed Restrictions. Further, ratings for Neighborhood Watch, Finance and Accounting and Covenants and Deed Restrictions increased since 2016. Some residents wrote in a division other than those listed or did not know with which division they had had contact; these also received very good or good ratings from about 8 in 10 respondents and improved since the previous survey iteration.
 
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
  • When providing their opinion of development activity in The Woodlands, slightly less than half of residents thought the Township was overdeveloped. About 4 in 10 felt it was just right. Only about 3% felt it was underdeveloped and 7% had no opinion. The proportion of residents who felt that the Township was overdeveloped decreased from 2016 to 2018, while the proportion of those who thought it was just right increased.
  •  About 8 in 10 survey participants indicated that continued economic development in The Woodlands was very or somewhat important to them. This was a slight increase since 2016.
  •  In response to an open-ended question that asked residents about other types of entertainment venues that they would like to have in The Woodlands, the most frequently mentioned type of venue was for arts and performances, representing 20% of responses.  About 1 in 10 wanted more sports/recreational facilities, trails or open space or more restaurants. Other types of venues were mentioned by about 3 in 10 respondents. About one-quarter indicated that they did not want additional types of venues.
 
TRANSPORTATION & MOBILITY
  •  When asked, in their own words, what could be done to improve transportation and mobility, most frequently mentioned by respondents was improving or creating more public transportation (mentioned by about 3 in 10 respondents). This was a similar proportion as in 2016. The next most frequent comments were related to improving traffic signal timing (15%) or widening or building more roads/overpasses (12%).
  •  Those completing the survey were asked to rate the importance of 11 different mobility improvements. The three improvements rated as most important by residents (at least 83% very or somewhat important) were providing safer ways to ride bikes, reducing congestion in Town Center, and improving pathways. The next most important improvements were improving signalization, improving intersection design or reducing congestion outside The Woodlands, considered very or somewhat important by 80-81% of respondents. Between 69% to 78% of respondents considered it very or somewhat important to reduce congestion in residential areas in The Woodlands, to provide other alternate mobility options, to provide more North-South connections in addition to I 45 and to expand transit capabilities to connect residential areas to other destinations. Sixty-four percent thought it was very or somewhat important to provide more East-West connections in and out of The Woodlands. More residents in 2018 thought it was important to provide safer ways to ride bikes than in 2016; most other importance ratings remained stable over time.
  • Among respondents who were employed, 37% worked in The Woodlands, 27% worked in the Houston area, 3% in Conroe and 10% somewhere else. About 6 in 10 respondent households had one or more members who worked full- or part-time in The Woodlands, while about half of households had one or more member who worked outside The Woodlands.
  •  About 6 in 10 survey respondents reported using a personal vehicle for their work commute. Twenty percent said that they carpool, 5% use The Woodlands Express Park and Ride, 2% bike, 1% bike and 4% do something else. Sixteen percent of respondents indicated that they did not work. (These percents add to more than 100%, as respondents could indicate more than one mode for their commute.)
RECOMMENDATION:
Receive presentation and final report.
Attachments
The Woodlands Township 2018 Residential Survey Report
Additional Materials - Survey Summary


    

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