With this in mind, Coconino County recently completed its 2016 Citizen Survey in order to measure our ability to meet the expectations of our citizens. The county contracted with a full-service social science research firm to conduct a telephone survey of 600 full-time, adult county residents. Questions focused on gathering information on the general mood of residents, as well as their perspective on the performance of the county. Questions also explored existing attitudes surrounding budget priorities. (Similar surveys were completed in 2011 and 2007.)
The results from the 2016 survey show that Coconino County continues to meet the needs and expectations of our citizens on a regular basis, and that overall, the level of citizen satisfaction is back to pre-recession (2007) levels.
It’s probably not surprising that our county residents are drawn to the most interactive and sometimes most critical of government services — our roadway services and road maintenance — as priorities. Two-thirds of respondents support continuing current levels of service and agree that the county should spend up to a full third of our budget to bolster these areas.
Following transportation funding, the next three functional areas most identified as priorities by the citizens were public health services (57 percent), criminal justice services (55 percent), and parks and recreation services (50 percent). Perhaps one of the more interesting takeaways from the survey is that more respondents this year allocated more of the proverbial tax dollar to public health services than to criminal justice services.
As part of the survey, respondents were also asked to do an exercise in which they allocate $100 in taxes to different county departments. If it were your choice to divide $100 to various county services, what would you choose?
This year, respondents assigned about $30 of the $100 to Road Maintenance, $26 to Public Health, $24 to Criminal Justice and $19 to Parks and Recreation. In 2011, the Criminal Justice and Public Health amounts were (roughly) reversed. Why the change? Perhaps news coverage of health issues has made an impact, or maybe county residents are beginning to sense that some public health spending might lead to a reduction in incarceration costs? Many in the field of public policy are conducting research trying to answer that very question.
Overall, we are very excited that our hard work on behalf of our community is recognized and that our residents agree that county government is functioning to their satisfaction. More than half of the respondents (56 percent) agreed that the county was headed in the right direction, and far fewer (17 percent) disagreed. These results are encouraging, and we look forward to continuing to live up to expectations.
By Cynthia Seelhammer
Cynthia Seelhammer is the Coconino County manager.