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Life in Savage: Economic health, transportation improvements reflected in community survey results

Savage’s latest community survey results are in and show the majority of residents continue to enjoy life in Savage.

The National Community Survey released the 2020 Community Livability Report for Savage this month. The results reflect responses from 762 residents.

The survey is designed to capture residents’ opinions on central facets of the community such as the economy, safety, inclusivity and engagement. The survey is typically conducted in Savage every two years.

Survey results concluded that Savage’s transportation system is improving, but continues to be a focus area for residents.

The survey also found that respondents applaud the overall economic health of the city and are pleased with their local government’s response to COVID-19.

Resident responses to over half of the mobility-related questions showed improvement when compared to the 2018 survey results. Street repair, snow removal and sidewalk maintenance saw the greatest increase in positive responses.

While demonstrating improvement, the issue of mobility rose to the top of the list when residents were asked to name one thing they’d like the city to improve on. Mobility improvements were also identified as residents’ top priority in the 2018 survey.

Around 80% of respondents favorably rated the overall economic health of Savage.

“This rating was outstanding and higher than national benchmarks,” the survey report reads.

Residents also responded more positively than national averages to questions surrounding how well their local government is operating.

When asked to rate the city’s response to COVID-19, about 9 in 10 indicated the city had done an excellent or good job maintaining essential city services and about 8 in 10 felt similarly about the city’s overall response.

By the numbers

Residents continue to give Savage high marks as a place to live and raise a family.

This year, 93% of respondents said they’d recommend living in Savage and 89% said they plan to stay for at least the next five years.

“Excellent” or “good” marks were given by 89% of respondents regarding the overall quality of life and 76% of respondents surrounding the city’s overall image or reputation — all quality of life questions measured similarly to national benchmarks.

Only one aspect of Savage’s economic health fell below the national comparison benchmark; only 28% of respondents rated the vibrancy of Savage’s downtown or commercial areas excellent or good.

When asked about local governance, 68% of residents rated their overall confidence in Savage’s government as “excellent” or “good.”

At least 7 out of 10 respondents positively reviewed the city’s job at generally acting in the best interest of the community, being honest, treating all residents fairly and the overall customer service provided by city employees — each of these area exceeded national benchmarks for positive responses.

The overall economic health of Savage was rated “excellent” or “good” by 86% of respondents, but positive feelings about the city’s downtown or commercial area fell below national benchmarks with only 28% of respondents expressing positivity.

Employment opportunities saw the second lowest positive rating on economy-related questions with 38% expressing positivity about job opportunities in Savage.

Mobility-related questions showed residents felt better about many aspects of transportation in Savage when compared to 2018, but the rating of the overall quality of the transportation system dropped 11%.

“Excellent” or “good” ratings exceeded the national comparison benchmarks on questions surrounding the ease of travel by car, traffic flow on major streets, public parking, street repair, street cleaning, snow removal and sidewalk maintenance.

Over half of respondents said they’d walked or biked instead of driving sometime in the past 12 months, but only 11% — below national benchmarks — reported using public transportation.

Community design questions asked residents to share their thoughts on topics such as land-use, zoning and housing.

Over half of respondents felt positively about the availability of affordable housing and the variety of housing options in Savage — the percentages both exceeded national benchmarks but fell when compared to Savage’s 2018 survey.

A little more than half of respondents also felt positively about commercial growth in Savage and the availability of public places where people want to spend time.

The majority of respondents did not respond positively to the topic of affordable high-speed internet in Savage, which was the only utilities-related measure falling below national benchmarks.

Residents continue to give high-marks to safety in Savage with 88% of respondents giving a positive rating to the overall feeling of safety in Savage.

All safety-related questions earned marks similar to national benchmarks with as many as 92% reporting they felt very or somewhat safe from violent crime and 97% of respondents reporting they feel safe in their neighborhood during the day.

Questions surrounding the natural environment, parks and recreation and health and wellness also received positive responses from the majority of respondents.

Overall opportunities for education, culture and the arts received a lower rating when compared to 2018 results, experiencing an 11% drop down to a 60% positive response rate.

Opportunities to attend cultural, art and music events fell below national benchmarks with only 41% of residents responding positively to the availability of these activities.

Positive responses regarding adult educational opportunities grew since 2018, but positive responses regarding K-12 education fell to 73%.

Residents’ connection and engagement with their community was measured “excellent” or “good” by 59% of respondents, and 66% responded positively to the community’s openness and acceptance towards people of diverse backgrounds.

Residents’ connection and engagement showed an 11% decline is positive responses compared to 2018.

Opened-ended question

Survey participants were asked to provide a written response to a question about the one thing they’d like the city to improve over the next few years.

The majority of responses related to mobility issues such as streets, traffic and connectivity.

Around a dozen responses asked for more bike trails and others asked for more beautification projects similar to the medians with landscaping installed on Glendale Road.

Related to city governance, more than two dozen respondents named lowering property taxes as their top priority.

Several respondents wrote complaints about district boundary lines and several others suggested Savage separate from the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District entirely.

Others said school district divisions hinder the city’s sense of community. One resident said students who attend schools in the Burnsville district are “made to feel less than” by others in the community for no good reason.

Several residents suggested promoting activities for seniors, such as opening a senior center or developing more walkable destinations for seniors living in the downtown area.

One respondent suggested changing the city’s name.

Many responses supported spending more on police and fire, although the survey results indicated it’s not because residents don’t currently feel safe.

Revitalizing downtown Savage also drew many responses from residents who wished for more dining, art and entertainment opportunities in town.

Senior Emmy Benson had 11 set assists in Prior Lake’s home loss to Shakopee in the season opener Oct. 9.

A semitrailer featuring a “Trump 2020” campaign sign on the southwest corner of 150th Street West and Dakota Avenue in Savage.

Here's how Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools allocated $2.1 million in COVID relief funds (copy)

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School District was allocated a total of $2,866,302 in coronavirus related funding earlier this year.

The largest portion of this funding is Coronavirus Relief Funds totaling $2,173,741 which were allocated in August. The district’s plans for these funds had to be determined by Oct. 1, Julie Cink, PLSAS Executive Director of Business Services said.

“Those are allocated to us and as we spend those we can get reimbursed. If we don’t spend them by Dec. 30 we lose that funding. It’s a one time shot,” Cink said.

Here’s where the district has proposed to allocate the Coronavirus Relief Funds:

CurriculumThe district allocated $562,902 for the purchase of curriculum for Distance Learning Academy students, professional development for teachers and to cover costs associated with the needs of DLA special education teachers.

TechnologyA total of $537,419 for technology, specifically tech for DLA students, iPads, Wi-Fi hotspots and cameras that allow DLA teachers to view their classrooms.

StaffingThe district allocated $328,420 to be spent on nurse, elementary, secondary education and childcare staffing.

OperationsOperational costs include $345,000 for PPE. The state also distributed enough masks for each child in the district to receive three cloth masks. Schools are required to provide students with masks and the CDC recommends masks are included on school supplies lists.

A total of $280,000 was allocated for an update to Glendale Elementary School’s automation system, Cink said.

Another $20,000 was previously allocated for the Minnesota State High School League, which requested funds because there won’t be any state tournaments, but the money will be reallocated from a different funding source, Cink explained.

Child Nutrition Services The district allocated $100,000 for supplies and equipment related to child nutrition services as the district is feeding in-person students as well as bagging meals for DLA students which are picked up weekly.

Scott County also allocated $260,096 to the district based on the number of K-12 students who reside in the county. The funds from the county will be used to cover childcare costs for essential employees accrued in the spring as well as childcare costs for the months of September and October. A $35,656 portion of those funds will cover additional technology needs for DLA students.

The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund and grants and the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief fund allocated $432,465 to the district.

“This is the piece of it that has the longest ability for us to spend these funds,” Cink said. “It’s the first funding that we received and it has the longest duration and so we do have some unallocated funds here and the reason they’re unallocated at this time is because we plan to use them after Dec. 30 of this year as much as we can.”

A portion of the CRF will cover additional district staffing before the end of the year, but staff will still need to be paid for the remainder of the academic year, Cink explained. Some of these funds will cover next year’s staff cost.

While these additional funds help cover some of the expenses accrued due to COVID-19, they don’t cover all of the additional expenses that have resulted from the pandemic, Cink said.

The funds can only be used to cover unplanned expenses and not to supplant any of the items the district had budgeted for, Cink said.

“Honestly there’s just not enough money there. We have transportation costs that we’re not including in here, we have a lot of other costs,” Cink said. “There’s just not enough funds for all the additional costs we have to try and run school in this situation, unfortunately.”

She noted that the district usually sees 75 students drop from enrollment throughout a school year, but this year PLSAS has already lost 167 students, which also affects funding.

The district typically would have cut busing to lower expenses, but with capacity limitations and the implementation of the hybrid learning model transportation can’t be cut.

“There’s a lot of things that are happening unfortunately that are affecting our budget that we can’t control,” Cink said. “I think we had a lot of expenses and we have more than what we’ve actually received in revenue and we’re hoping that they’ll give us some additional funds for the remainder of the year from December on but if they don’t that’s money that will have to come out of the general fund in order to pay for those things.”