April 30, 2014

Breadth of support chart
Number of respondents who chose each service category among their most valued.
Total value chart
Total value respondents assigned to each service category based on their rank.
Chart re allocating additional funding
Number of respondents who chose each option to receive funds from this year's $8.3 million surplus.
Over a two-month period, more than 1,250 budget surveys were submitted by members of the public concerning what the county's budget priorities should be. The survey consisted of five questions. Three were quantitative and two were qualitative. The quantitative questions asked respondents to select and rank three county services they valued most from 17 service categories, as well as to choose one project or service on which this year’s $8.3 million surplus should be spent. Analysis revealed that respondents prioritized roads and bridges, and services that were health and human services in nature, like mental health services. Additionally, 33% of respondents selected mental health services to receive the surplus budget funds. This was nearly double the second favored option to increase SUN Community School services or sites (17%). 

The qualitative questions asked respondents to describe what they valued the most about the services and projects they selected. Over 1,740 comments were received about the features of the county services they valued most. The comments varied greatly--falling into 260 different categories based on similarity. Over 85% of the comments concerned only the top eight service categories that had been previously selected by respondents. Examples included, "people with mental health care problems need care and attention" and "youth need to receive early education, social service assistance, and after-school activities." Two overarching themes were visible across topics as more than 29% of the total comments embodied them: a) support the most vulnerable and at-risk populations, and b) prevention and early intervention avoid related societal problems, decrease other service needs, reduce long-term costs and create the best outcomes.

The other qualitative question asked respondents to describe why they selected their choice to receive surplus funds. Over 860 comments were submitted. Interestingly 131 of the comments (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). This suggests that respondents were very thoughtful, since this comment takes into account the relationships between issues and the importance of addressing them now to avoid future social and financial costs.

The results of the report were presented in person to the Board of County Commissioners on April 29. We encourage you to read the report to learn more about what respondents said, and to read more of the public’s comments by clicking here or downloading it below.