Citizen Survey Shows Jobs and Unemployment Key Concerns for Citizens; County Maintains Overall Satisfaction Ranking; Majority of Citizens Report Decrease in Service Levels Due to Budget and Workforce Reductions

For the first time since Washoe County has conducted its biennial citizen survey since 1997, growth and development issues were not identified as one of the top 5 issues facing Washoe County residents. And it’s no surprise that the economy and related issues were named as top issues by 63% of the respondents to a statistically-valid telephone survey conducted from November 11 to December 14, 2010 with results presented to the Washoe County Commission today. This compares with 44% of respondents naming economy-related issues in the previous survey of January 2009.

Another key finding of the independent survey conducted by local market research firm InfoSearch, Inc. was that participants gave an overall ranking of Washoe County government that was similar to the previous survey’s ranking. Approximately half of the respondents (45%) indicated that Washoe County government generally does a good or better job overall. The overall satisfaction ranking is remarkable given that Washoe County has reduced its budget by $123 million over the past four years and is currently operating with 16% fewer employees. When asked if they had seen any impact upon delivery of Washoe County services, three out of five respondents (61%) said they perceived the level of service had dropped to some degree.

Other key findings highlighted for the Board were:

* Survey was proportional to jurisdictions, i.e., 58% of respondents were City of Reno residents, 20% were City of Sparks residents and 22% lived in the unincorporated areas of Washoe County.
* Survey sample was 600 Washoe County residents contacted by telephone; 50 additional citizens who serve on Washoe County volunteer citizens boards and committees responded to an on-line version of the survey with a 96.2% confidence level.
* More survey respondents (66%) were able to identify 3 services provided by Washoe County government than in the previous survey (55%). A possible reason for this is that more citizens are using county safety-net type services to meet economic challenges and/or more citizens are aware of these types of services given their importance over the past several years.
* Child Protective Services was the highest ranked budget priority which was true in the previous survey.
* Conducting Elections was ranked the highest in terms of satisfaction replacing Regional Parks and Recreation in the last survey.
* The four highest-ranked services provided in the unincorporated area remained the same from the previous survey: fire protection, law enforcement, water service and sewer service (in that order).
* Given that Washoe County had reduced staff by 16% over the past 18 months due to budget cuts, three out of five respondents (61%) indicated that the level of service had dropped to some degree. (This was a new question.)
* Use of the county’s website had increased significantly from 45% in the previous survey to 53% in the current survey.
* More people surveyed had personal contact with Washoe County government (72%) compared with the last survey (64%). This could indicate that more people are using county services.
* At least three out of five respondents who had contact with Washoe County employees reported that the employees were very courteous (72%) and/or very helpful (65%) which is an outstanding reflection on Washoe County’s hard-working employees given that 16% reduction in workforce since the last survey.
* 19% of those surveyed stated they would follow Washoe County government information using a social media tool such as Facebook or Twitter. This is a new question, and especially notable given that survey respondents’ reliance on newspapers and television to receive information about county issues continued its declining trend. Personal experience is the number one way people get their information about how well Washoe County government operates.

The professionally-conducted survey is statistically representative of all 410,000 residents in Washoe County, accordingly to Community Relations Director Kathy Carter. The survey cost was $17,500, the same amount paid two years ago for a shorter survey. The budgeted survey was conducted to meet the Board’s goal to have supplemental information about citizen priorities for budget discussions to provide better customer service. Some of the data obtained in the survey is also used to populate performance measures associated with the County Commission’s strategic objectives.

* 2010 WC_Citizen_Report2.pdf
* WashoeCountyCitizen_Dec2010 v.2.ppt
* BCC Memo re 2010 Survey Results.doc