Sunday, March 1, 2015

Survey reveals overall satisfaction in Raymond - By Walter Lunt

Raymond residents rate their quality of life and town services favorably, according to a community survey administered and analyzed by the research and consulting firm Pan Atlantic SMS Group of Portland. The survey was commissioned by the Raymond Selectboard in 2013 to determine the level of satisfaction with the town and to evaluate its future needs.
Utilizing a 4-page survey mailed to 2,871 registered voters and property owners (re-duped to ensure one survey per household), the firm sought to determine residents’ opinions on town departments such as public safety, public works, and town management, codes and ordinances. Further explored were the needs and priorities for Raymond over the next 10 years and the level of satisfaction with RSU 14 consolidation with Windham.

Pan Atlantic reported a response rate of 20 percent, considered “very high for a project of this nature,” yielding a +/- 3.8 percent margin of error.

Quality of life
Perceptions of Raymond, that is, as a place to live, raise children or retire rated an overall “good”, or 4.0 on a five point scale (where 1 is low and 5 is high). Respondents judged opportunities to participate in community matters and overall confidence in Raymond’s elected officials to be “average to good.” On members of various town boards and opportunities for adult education and enrichment, results came in as “average.”

Public Safety
Across the board ratings of public safety tested very strong with scores between 4.0 – 4.5; 41 percent favored keeping policing services provided by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, 9 percent preferring enhanced services with the sheriff’s office, 5 percent opting for the town to organize its own police force, and the rest saying they did not have enough information to respond.

The overall quality and professionalism of Raymond Fire and Rescue personnel, including response times, rated extremely high, including a 4.98 score in one sub-category.

Public works and town maintenance
Residents expressed a high degree of satisfaction with curbside trash and recycling collection, which rated close to 4.4. The quality of public recreation areas scored favorably at just over 4.1.
Responsiveness of public works to address problems, the overall condition and quality of state and town maintained roads scored comparatively lower with ratings from 3.6 to just over 3.7, averaging out to a 57 percent level of satisfaction.

Town management and town codes and ordinances
Good to strong scores were garnered for town management and town codes and ordinances, including the town manager’s office, customer service at the town office, satisfaction with department heads and enforcement of town codes. Ratings in these areas ranged from 3.8 – 4.47.

Residents also gave favorable ratings to the town’s website ( and streaming video of various town and board meetings.

Taxes and enhanced services
Over one third of respondents indicated they “would not find any tax increase tolerable.” An additional 9 percent did not favor pursuing any additional services, facilities, infrastructure or other projects. Of the approximately 54 percent who agreed some level of tax increase would be tolerable, 16 percent would cap the hike at one percent.
Possible service enhancements that were identified in the survey included support for conservation (open space, milfoil eradication, etc.), Raymond Village Library and economic development.

School consolidation
The towns of Raymond and Windham formed Regional School Unit14 in 2009 to consolidate educational costs. The marriage has had a rocky start with many residents of Raymond calling for a divorce. Others contend the problems are growing pains and that the partnership should be given the chance to work, citing “economy of scale,” and the advantages of sharing resources. 

The survey showed satisfaction with the RSU to be low, with only 18 percent of respondents saying they are somewhat or very satisfied with the union. About a third indicated some level of dissatisfaction. Among those with children in the household, dissatisfaction was even higher.

Concern was expressed last fall with a proposal to build a new school in Windham that would likely have a high cost to Raymond residents. A vote by residents of both towns that would reduce Raymond’s share of the consolidation cost is scheduled for March 18.  The proposal for the new cost sharing formula was advanced after the Raymond community survey was conducted.

How do the Raymond survey results compare with other Maine towns of comparable size? The Pan Atlantic researchers noted that “it can be difficult to make direct comparisons because of differences in population, income levels, range of services provided by the town….and geographic location.”

Town officials have said the survey will be valuable in determining future policies in Raymond and in the formation of a new comprehensive plan.

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