From 2011-2016, the Community Involvement Committee (CIC), along with the County Chair, sponsored surveys and community budget forums during spring to get public input on the how to spend money in the upcoming county budget.
Health – both physical and mental – represented the highest of priorities in the 2016 survey.
The CIC sought budget input using a survey with five questions. Over 1,250 surveys were submitted within two months. The final document is available for download.
Analysis revealed that respondents wanted the county's budget to prioritize services that are health and human services in nature, like mental health, and roads and bridges. Additionally, 33% of respondents selected mental health services to receive surplus budget funds totaling $8.3 million, nearly double the next most favored option to increase SUN Community School services or sites. When respondents were asked why they selected their choice, approximately one out of every seven respondents focused on expanding mental health programs to reduce and prevent a multitude of societal problems (e.g., crime, homelessness, domestic violence, gangs, HIV), as well as to decrease other service demands and costs (e.g., health care costs). See a longer summary of the report and more charts.
In 2012 the CIC sought budget input using a survey with questions that asked respondents to rank the county programs that were most important to them and to describe the features of the programs they valued the most. Over 535 people responded with more than 1,410 comments in just over two months. Thirty-nine of the surveys were submitted in Spanish. The comments were analyzed and submitted in a report to county commissioners and department heads.
Analysis revealed that respondents wanted the county's budget to prioritize libraries, roads and bridges, and services that were health and human services in nature, like mental health. The comments varied greatly--falling into 90 different categories based on similarity. Comments classified into ten of the categories accounted for over 60% of the total amount. Examples include, "[a]dvance literacy; and access to media and information for all citizens" and "[m]aintain and upgrade county infrastructure." As compared to the 2011 survey, the list of services ranked at the top was similar but where they ranked on the list changed slightly--with services like libraries and roads and bridges moving up in support.
In 2011, over 60 members of the public attended a forum to learn about the relationship between state and county funding and to give input about which programs should be prioritized for funding by the county in the event of deeper state budget reductions. During the forum attendees broke into small groups where facilitators led them in discussions about which county programs were most important to them and program features that they valued the most. Each discussion group then reported out to the larger group which services and features were most important. County officials also responded to questions and comments raised by the discussion groups. Public input ranged from prioritizing continued funding of SUN Schools to ensuring that roads and bridges managed by the County are funded. The input was analyzed and its conclusions were presented in a report that was submitted to the Board of County Commissioners and other county officials.
The CIC also used an online survey in 2011 to gather public input with questions similar to those asked at the live budget forum. Over 485 people responded with more than 1,260 comments over three months that were divided into two separate periods. The comments were analyzed and submitted in a report to county commissioners and department heads. Survey respondents had many intriguing comments.