County survey results best ever, officials say

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Two years of shrinking budgets and difficult decisions haven’t left Chesterfield residents less satisfied with their county, according to survey results unveiled last week.

“The results indicate that the board has been very successful in charting a course for the county that is reflective of the community’s priorities,” County Administrator Jay Stegmaier told the Board of Supervisors last week. “I’m very happy to report to you that the results on the survey this year were the best that we’ve ever done.”

The results of the 2010 Citizen Satisfaction Survey were generally higher than the 2004 and 2006 surveys, and comparable to or higher than the 2008 survey, said Kevin Bruny, the Chief Learning Officer and University Dean of Chesterfield University. “We’re really pleased,” he said in a meeting last week, especially at getting this kind of response from residents in the current environment.

Every two years, the county surveys residents to gauge their sentiment on where the county is going and where they feel it needs to go, Bruny said. Through the survey results, the county identifies its strengths and opportunities for improvement, he said.

The first survey was taken in 1986; since 2002, they have been taken every two years. The Center for Survey Research at the University of Virginia conducted this year’s survey. The last three surveys have been taken over the phone, he said; residents were called after they received a letter notifying them of the survey. An effort was made to include residents whose native language was Spanish, he said.

This year, the county had a 25 percent response rate, surveying a total of 550 residents, Bruny said. Though there were about 100 respondents for each magisterial district, the survey results were not divided by district, he said. To cut costs, fewer residents were surveyed this year, but the data collected was still statistically valid.

Of the respondents, 93.5 percent rated the overall quality of life in the county as “good” or “excellent.” This result was above the national and state “norms,” said Marshall Lewis, a senior administrative analyst with the county. About 85 percent of respondents rated county schools’ preparation of students as “good” to “excellent,” and about 92 percent rated Chesterfield as a good place to raise children.

This year, the county received its highest-ever rating for environmental stewardship, as 78.6 percent of respondents gave it a favorable rating.
The county also received high ratings for the customer service provided by county employees and its safety. And, for the first time, more than 50 percent of respondents gave the county a favorable rating on its question about government openness.

“The question we ask is, ‘How would you rate Chesterfield County in getting your opinion before making major decisions?’” Lewis said. “We’ve been asking this one since the beginning. … It’s never been above 50 percent.”

Considering what the county has been through in recent years, Stegmaier told the board, “to recognize now the results of this survey, which was just done in 2010, and to see that we’ve been able to maintain very high levels of service I think says worlds about this board and the county employees who’ve worked so hard to maintain those services.”

The results of the survey are available on the county’s website, www.chesterfield.gov.

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