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April 19, 2011

County switching from phone to paper surveys

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DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Albemarle County has changed the process by which it surveys its citizens on the quality of local government services.

In previous years, the county has hired the University of Virginia’s Center for Research to conduct phone surveys with residents to ask questions specifically tailored to Albemarle. In 2008, the center conducted phone interviews with 767 residents at a cost of $43,000.

“The UVa surveys have been very useful and accurate over the past 10 or so years, but we needed to revisit our approach given budgetary constraints,” said Lee Catlin, county spokeswoman.

This year, Albemarle will instead spend $15,000 to participate in the National Citizen Survey, a paper questionnaire developed by the International City/County Management Association. The survey is used by more than 250 localities across the country, including Blacksburg and Lynchburg.

This week, the county will mail 1,200 of the forms to residents chosen at random.

“The survey is an important tool for gauging public priorities and issues of concern, and the results are very helpful as we make critical policy and resource decisions,” said County Executive Tom Foley in a news release. “We hope that those citizens who receive surveys in the mail will take the time to share their candid feedback with us.”

Catlin said the results will be different from previous years, but will still be useful in helping to guide county leadership.

“Because of the standard template used in this new survey instrument, we have not been able to edit questions to reflect specific Albemarle County issues, so the results will be less deep and specialized,” Catlin said.

However, Catlin said there were benefits to participating in the same survey used by other communities.

“The standardization of questions will allow us to benchmark very precisely with other communities in Virginia and across the country,” she said.

The results will be compiled and made available to county staff in the weeks leading up to the Board of Supervisors’ strategic retreat in June.

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