In yesterday’s (10/8/08) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors received a preview of the biennial survey results that will be released in December. The purpose of the preview is to provide some context for the supervisors as they move into their strategic planning retreat on October 24th.
The survey, again conducted by the Center for Survey Research of the Weldon Cooper Center at UVA, asked residents about their opinions of County Government, Quality of Life, Transportation and County priorities. The Albemarle County School Board also paid to add a few questions about education but the answers to those questions were not shared in yesterday’s meeting.
There were many interesting takeaways from this presentation. The first is when you change the question from should the county “Devote resources” to should the county “Spend tax dollars” the number of respondents indicating the issue was very important dropped in 30 of the 38 categories. In some cases the drop between the two questions was dramatic
While 53% of respondents believed it was very important to “devote resources to preserving historic buildings”, only 36.6% of respondents felt it was very important to “spent tax dollars to preserving historic buildings”.
The survey, conducted from August 20 to September 14, provides a snapshot of a community that is not monolithic in thought. One question that was new this year asked about a willingness to pay taxes to fund transportation:
48.8% said yes, 9.4% said yes but depends, 39.9% said No, 0.8% said No but depends and 1.2% said something else.
Another new question asked respondents to choose one of four strategic objectives as the most important for Albemarle County to pursue:
- 22.8% chose Slow Down Population Growth
- 23.2% chose Increase the number of jobs
- 18.1% chose Protect Natural Resources
- 16.8% chose Lower Taxes
- 19% chose Other
Almost 1/5 of the respondents indicated their priority was not on the list. How many others simply decided not to suggest an “other”. Obviously these four issues are not mutually exclusive but this answer does indicate a wide array of views are expressed in Albemarle County and all who participate in public policy should be careful of being swayed by those who indicate they speak for the majority of citizens. Based particularly on this question no such “majority” likely exists.
It will be most interesting how the answers to the surveys are used to justify different initiatives within Albemarle County.
The survey indicated one of the areas of low importance to the survey respondents was the preservation of historic buildings. Will this result impact the current efforts of the Historic Preservation committee to put forth an ordinance?
While the Free Enterprise Forum is appreciative of the changes in which the questions are now being asked, we continue to believe the questions could be quantified further to ask if the taxpayer would be willing to pay an additional $100 a year in taxes to help fund intiative A or initiative B. We will wait until the full report comes out in December to provide a more complete analysis of the data points achieved.